Derrick is dead


I was born in West Germany, and I lived in Germany until late 1998 when various jobs took me to Sweden, France, and - eventually - the US. Due to circumstances, all I really remember is West Germany. Even though the country got re-united in 1990, up until late 1998 it didn’t feel like anything had changed. The time from the early 1980s until the late 1990s I tend to call Germany’s Brezhnev Years, where despite the re-unification things were either in statis or actually stagnating, all of this symbolized by Chancellor Kohl, an utterly mediocre and unremarkable man.

Things finally started to change when Kohl was evicted from the Chancellory, but by then I was already on the road, moving from place to place; and when everything got interesting I had settled in the US. Of course, I go back “home” whenever I get the chance, and it’s always a little bit weird for me. It’s not only that being an expat makes those visits often somewhat uncomfortable, it’s also that now I’m actually visiting a different country. I left what in effect had been West Germany, and now I’m visiting Germany, a country that despite its never-ending love affair with mediocrity (just look at who followed Kohl) has witnessed such tremendous changes - changes I wouldn’t have assumed to be possible and changes I am very excited about.

And now Horst Tappert died, the actor who played TV cop “Derrick”, a person perpetually caught in the look of a 65-year old accountant whose retirement day is about 24 hours away. For me, “Derrick” represented West Germany. Or maybe what I want to say is that if you want to understand West Germany, all you need to do is to watch is a few episodes of “Derrick” (not too many, since there isn’t much of a variation anyway). Things are always grey, and Derrick is always stoic, taking care of business, sure it’s not a pretty world, but he’ll nab those murderers (Harry, his assistant: “OK, I guess I’ll get the car”) so things can go back to being grey and mediocre (Here is “Derrick” saying good-bye on TV).

Some day, I’ll go back to Germany, and there’ll be nothing left of West Germany, and boy, that’ll be truly weird.