Phillip, the son, got a call. His father is in the hospital after a serious traffic accident. The shock was great, the surprise was limited. Had always raced like a madman. Phillip had long since decided never to ride his father’s motorbike again. “You don’t even know if someone is coming towards you in the curve!” – “Sure! Dit habick in jefeel!”

So now it had happened, the son drove to the hospital somewhere in Thuringia, a nurse received him: “It’s good that you’re here! Please tell your father he needs to go back to bed. He just got out of the coma, the injuries are bad!”

So the son went to his father’s room, the father, badly injured but on his feet, had already gotten dressed: “It’s good that you’re here. We can go.” The son didn’t give a thought to how he would get his father back into bed. If he set his mind to something, it was the law. Always has been.

And that’s how the accident happened: The father was driving around in his heavy machine, too fast anyway, also without papers and TÜV, but the stupidest thing: in all black gear. The police were out in large numbers that day because neo-Nazis had registered a demonstration. The father wasn’t one of them, but the black clothes and the speed looked suspicious enough to give chase. Phillip surmises that his father wasn’t exactly clean, having dealt with coke and other stuff a lot back then, and that when he saw the police behind him he just overreacted a bit. He sped off at top speed, he broke through a roadblock and the police ultimately had no choice but to ram him off the machine. He could have died well, so he was actually lucky.

Now Phillip understood why he was in such a hurry to get out of the hospital. There was an arrest warrant out and he didn’t want to jump off the bed and into jail. But then he landed. Of course, eventually the police caught him.

Phillip talks about his father like an elemental force. Unpredictable, quick-tempered, often unattainable. A guy like a tree, called “Panzer”, and most thought that he was called that because of his stature and because he could cause nasty damage with his headbutts in the faces of others, although he had only been in the NVA in the tank. So Panzer was Phillip’s father, and Phillip knows he wasn’t an all-round good man, not exactly what you would imagine a good father to be. He loved him anyway, not least because his father loved him, his son, more than anything. Also, in Phillip’s words, “Every boy loves Bud Spencer. My dad was Bud Spencer.”

Just a Bud Spencer who did weird stuff and got stuck every now and then. But he never fooled his son. When Phillip once confessed to him – despite all admiration: “I would like to have a normal father, like others do,” he replied: “I know how it is. I didn’t have a normal youth myself.”

Ralf was the middle of the three Thiele brothers. They grew up in Potsdam, they were known at school because they were big and strong. The Russian barracks were right around the corner. They played with the officers’ children, and Ralf learned a lot more Russian than at school. The mother worked as the secretary of an NVA general, the father had fled to the west. For years, the sons were housed in homes. Ralf was the strongest of the three. And the most enterprising. He got into school at night with a bunch of Russian kids and stole stuff. For this he was sent to the Jugendwerkhof, as the labor camps for young people were called in the GDR, where things were violent, where one learned above all that a hard blow is more convincing than a soft word. After that, Ralf finished school, did a few part-time jobs and soon joined the army, like I said, with the tanks. And even then he didn’t turn out to be a good guy.

It goes without saying that he wanted to leave the East, where being good was the first civic duty. At the age of 20, he succeeded. He swam through the Havel to West Berlin, right next to the Glienicke Bridge, where agents were always exchanged. It certainly wasn’t a poorly guarded spot; he later explained that the stupid border guards were the least expecting a breakthrough. Maybe that was his calculation at the time, maybe he just thought: “We’ll see about that!”

He did the same with women, with success. Half a year after he left, he sat down on the lap of a 17-year-old in “Sound”, asked politely: “Well, Kleene, are you bored?” And was not impressed when she pointed out that she was already taken. Then he soon put a fat gold ring on her finger and she was blown away. Well, she discovered that there was a woman’s name engraved that wasn’t hers at all. She suspected the ring belonged to another friend of his. But he was able to calm her down: “The thing is stolen somewhere. But it looks really good, doesn’t it?”

She then quickly realized that he was in the drug swamp. In his Neukölln pad he often lay around with his buddies, not responsive, and his eyes were so funny rolled up. Well, she was 17, he was 21, he always knew how things worked, he was big and strong and in a good mood and when she was pregnant he wanted her to keep the child. He couldn’t be that wrong after all.

Then he got into a fight, it was about another woman, and he beat the guy up so badly that he had to go to jail. But he got out quickly and said she and the baby should come with him to Bavaria. There he found his father, with whom he could get a job and everything would be fine. So you with the baby, Phillip, to Bavaria, Ralf worked there as a truck driver, but somehow things didn’t go well. He made out with other women again, he wasn’t too affectionate with her. So after nine months she moved back to Berlin with Phillip.

After all, Ralf kept in touch. Popped up every now and then and wanted to see Phillip, once kicked in her door, she already had another boyfriend by then. And then he suddenly disappeared completely, in the east jail. He wanted to help his brothers escape to the West, met them in Hungary and was arrested there. However, the Hungarians did not hand him over to the GDR, he did that himself. After he was back in the west, he went straight to the border to visit his brothers in Potsdam. After all, he was a West Berliner, a free person, he must have thought. “We’ll see about that.” He was imprisoned for a year and a half because he fled the republic at the time, and then he was allowed to return to the West.

That’s when he learned that it was much easier to get hold of the market in the shadowy industries than in those where you also have to pay taxes. In Bavaria he came into contact with guys who were somehow similar to him, stable and tough and ready to use their fists in case of conflict. They rode heavy motorcycles that were so loud that the conclusion was obvious: heavy guys must be sitting on them. He, “the price”, spoke quite differently than they did, but his chest was broad and his self-confidence high enough. Panzer bought a big machine and became a member. He was allowed to attach the “MC Triumvirate Passau” patch to his jacket, MC for motorcycle club.

When the Wall fell, Panzer was 35, he could finally go back to Potsdam, and it wasn’t long before he was in the middle of it, before everyone in the new party and drug scene in his old homeland knew him. He undoubtedly had a great talent for resolving conflicts confrontationally; but he was even better at making friendly contacts. He walked up to everyone, “Dude how’s it lookin’, said what he thought, asked what’s needed, knew who had what left. The time was made for someone like him. Laws were suggestions because those who were supposed to uphold them had lost all respect. Not that Panzer had much respect for the police before or after, but now, even if he had expected, he didn’t have to face the consequences. The entertainment industry developed and with it the need for tough guys to guard the entrances. Suppliers of celebratory substances were also welcome. Panzer had gained expertise in Bavaria and West Berlin, he knew how it worked.

With a little more business acumen and organizational perseverance, he might have built a bigger business. But he rather baked the small rolls, arranged jobs, brought people into contact, threw himself into battle when the Nazi idiots wanted to take over a club door. There were various fights in Potsdam, and even Panzer got hit in the head with a baseball bat, that was part of it if you didn’t just sit in the back room.

At that time, Phillip, his son, had more to do with him. In the 80’s he had only seen the father a few times a year. Now he was old enough to get an insight into the not quite bourgeois world of adults. He saw that there were very different amounts of hash than the few grams that were being traded in his schoolyard. He accompanied his father to a whorehouse, waited there with a glass of Coke at the counter until Panzer had cleared up a protection money issue in the back room, and was impressed when a lady explained to a customer that the increased traffic speed was no reason for a discount. Phillip also attended a rockers’ meetup where his father’s motorcycle gang served alcohol. When everyone in charge had poured far too much for themselves, he was allowed to tap the beer himself.

Was Panzer a good father? Let’s put it this way: he made Phillip feel proud of him. Well, for a while the son was also on the road that was not entirely straight. But he got out of the mess, not only because he saw from his father that the unsettled life wasn’t worth it and led quite reliably to jail. He’s also certain that the confidence his father instilled in him helped him resist the lure and threats of the demimonde. He now runs a thriving Internet company and, with his wife and children, lives the life his father never sought. The respect remained until the end, on both sides. It was similar with Tatiana, the daughter of another mother. She lives in Bavaria with a job, husband and child.

Panzer, the grandfather of two, has also become reasonably well-behaved in his old age. He found employment with a doctor who helps the aging wealthy of Potsdam to look fresher. He drove them, he drove the celebrity clientele, he was reliability personified, he said first names to everyone in a way that made each you feel pompous and out of place. Of course he wasn’t Panzer there, it was Ralf.

When the car needed washing, he had one of his countless friends who owed him something do it. When the boss was away for a long time, that was what she later saw on the mileage of her car. She didn’t blame him for that, because she liked him, even if – or because – she suspected that he had done a lot worse in his wild life.

Five years ago he had another violent accident with his motorcycle, which finally showed that he wasn’t indestructible at all. They screwed a lot of steel into his leg, but he couldn’t walk properly anymore. His appearance, however, didn’t change that much. He still knew where to go, even when others recommended completely different directions. He argued with his son about Corona and the vaccinations because he saw the big conspiracy there. A last fight against “the system” that he had always pointed the finger at. Trust wasn’t his forte. Always had to fend for yourself. And certainly couldn’t be told what was good for his armored body and what wasn’t. He fell ill with Corona and got the shit halfway over with – “There you go, tell me!” – and died of a pulmonary embolism. It was quite likely that it was a result of Covid. After all, death came quickly, because there was nothing Panzer had been afraid of in his life except slowly going away.