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"Seven weeks to look, see, learn, and share some skills in Conflict Resolution…
For over a year this journey has gradually been coming together. But the seeds were sown over 40 years ago when serving in Tanzania with the Peace Corps."  

 

 

August 21, 2007     Stone Town , Zanzibar



Met a Hemingway look alike at a stall selling oranges. He spoke passable Swahili and I greeted him and we both sort of had that “ Where are you from” look on our faces. He asked what nationality I thought he was and I think I guessed German. He said he was in Zanzibar right after the Revolution in 1964 and worked as a teacher. His name is Eckhard Schulz from near Magdeburg, the home of my Aunt Emma Morgenthau. I asked if he knew the husband of the writer Doris Lessing who was married to Gottfried Lessing. By then he was the Consul General from East Germany to Zanzibar and divorced from Doris. Eckhard, a bit surprised that I would know that replied that he did meet him several times at functions. Lessing eventually disappeared in Idi Amin's Uganda and to this day there is no clue what became of his body or why he was killed. Eckhard is a part time historian of the German presence in East Africa, something we have in common. Though his interest is much greater and better connected than mine. We have both been on several trecks in Tanzania to Taita, Lake Chala, and other WWI sites including the Moshi War Cemetery. He confirmed that the large number of British soldiers who died on March 21, 1916 were killed in the Battle of Moshi that included the bombing of the town by the British. Fortunately the Brits had only one plane and one bomb. I believe there was a Royal Marine pilot killed there. He told me of the Robert Koch room in the old Dar Es Salaam hospital where the eminent microbiologist worked for a year in the 1890s and at one time returned for a brief visit. Eckhard went on to Moshi shortly after I left to replace the biology teacher Ian Smith , whom I knew and with whom I played rugby. Ian was killed in a car accident. Something I did not know about. He knew Frank Poppleton, Pat Heminqway and several others I had known. He didn't know that Dr. Balletto lived near Moshi, but he knew of the doctor's adventure on Mt. Kenya.. We plan to meet tomorrow for coffee. We had coffee yesterday at the Zanzibar Coffee House behind the fish market. We also met a young Swiss couple here to study Swahili before going to Ifaraka, south of Iringa on the mainland to work for two years. He is an infectious diseases specialist, HIV, and she is a biology teacher. We warned her of some of the pitfalls of biology teaching over here.. They were both feeling frustrated with the methodology of Swahili teaching.

Another story Herr Schulz has about Gottfried Lessing included some background about the man. He was a Communist who fled the Nazi's in the 1930s and ended up in South Africa where he met Doris. He appears in at least one of her early novels. Their marriage eventulally ended and he returned to East Germany after WWII where he joined the party and became a member of the diplomatic corps. He came to Zanzibar after the 1964 Revolution, a quite bloody one at that. Lots of Arabs and Indians were singled out by the masses and systematically liquidated by the Afro Shirazi party. Many weree literally driven into the ocean. Others shot and buried in mass graves. Now Indians and Arabs are back in Zanzibar. Survivors and children of survivors. I know nothing about the reconcilliation process here. For about 3 years after 64 , the island was shut down to western visitor. However the Russians, East Germans, Czechs, and Chinese were invited in and became very much a presence. This was also the time of the liberation wars in Southern Africa and Zanzibar became a warehouse for arms shipments to the mainland. Southern Tanzania was a training ground for many of these groups, especially Freelimo, who were active in Mozambique under Eduardo Mondolane, a professor on leave of absence to run a revolution. He spoke to us at Peace Corps training in Syracuse. He was eventually blown up by sympathizers of Samora Machel, who was killed in a plane crash that the South Africans are thought to have engineered. Southwest Africa People's Organization SWAPO was also active in Tanzania and the African National Congress ANC was in Dar Es Salaam initially struggling for recognition as the representative of the South African people in their fight against Apartheid. There were several organizations also in competition with them. When the ANC was recognized, the others had to leave Tanzania. At that time I was living just inside Kenya on the Tanzanian border. One afternoon about 6 men showed up on my front door asking for help to get to Nairobi about 150 miles through the bush. They were from one of the discredited political groups. Somehow they had met the Northern Region rep for the Peace Corps, and he suggested to them that they cross the border where I lived because it was for the most part unguarded. I was able to borrow the school's Landrover and drove them through the bush to Nairobi where they had a contact. When the school principal found out, the Peace Corps was persona non grata at the school forever. They met me on the edge of town so it would appear that I was just giving a ride to hitch hikers. These guys were very distinguishable in appearance from the multiracial makeup. I know now they were Cape Coloureds, children of African, Asian, and White parentage. I'm not sure what polical group they were with, but this occurred in late 1967.

Getting back to the story Eckhard was telling me about Gottfried Lessing however, he mentioned that an historian friend in Berlin now has access to archives of the East German regime, indicating that Lessing was in negotiation with the South African Apartheid government about something. Very secret of course, as to each side this would be equivalent of negotiating with the devil. Whatever either of them had to talk about will be most interesting to know and how contact was initially made. Apparently the paper will be coming out shortly and Eckhard will keep me apprised.

Today, Tuesday it is raining in town. \most unusual for this time of year.
Signing off from Stone Town, Zanzibar.
This Tuesday evening, I met again with Eckhard Schulz to carry on our conversation of yesterday. One of my questions of him was to know if he had ever written articles about Tanzania and particularly about Kilimanjaro in East German papers. This question came to me in my sleep last night. His answer was , Yes. The reason I asked was because I had read one of them in 1969 or 1970. At that time I was in the 5th Psychological Operations Battalion in Boeblingen , West Germany as an area studies analyst. My job was to research certain countries to determine if there were interest groups that would support American activities in that particular country. Nothing very sinister but just to know in case the balloon ever went up. There were former East Germans, Czechs, Russians, and others in that unit, and all we did was read a lot of newspapers and clip articles of interest, and then spent most of our time burning those newspapers so no one would know what we were reading or what was being clipped out. I remember now saving an article about Kilimanjaro by an East German from Neuesdeutschland . I think it is still in a folder somewhere in our home. This I confess is a breach of State Security and which may get me put in Leavenworth when I get home. We both had to laugh that here we met, old cold warriors who never lifted a weapon in anger, meeting in a former revolutionary country that is now being seduced by capitalism. What else could be more revolutionary. He told of being followed by police when he went to meet a girlfriend in Russia. Then he told me of the State police investigation into his past before he went to Africa. Then I realized that the FBI had done a full background investigation on me and every other Peace Corps Volunteer before we went overseas. The more we were different , the more we were alike. There will be a picture of this meeting in Zanzibar on this site shortly. My cousin and I will be getting photos ready to fill in on all these letters. One more night in Zanzibar and two more on the mainland, then I'll be locked into the cabin of Ethiopian Airlines all the way to Washington on Friday and Saturday.

Stone Town , Zanzibar at the Palace Hotel Internet Cafe. August 21, 2007

 

 

 

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