Dr. Annemarie Berkenheier (1919–2010), Foto October 2008
Conspicuous indicators of her upper-class catholic background were pieces of furniture of such dimensions that they would not have fit in any normal apartment; a meter-sized baroque sculpture of the woman in the Apocalypse; particularly: a portrait of her father, a doctor also known as doctor of the poor in Munich – looking out through the heavy frame, bearded and serious –, that she took with her to her first office in Schiller Street near central station. There she continued the treatment of fractures she had learnt from her father: without operation. Many patients came to her for that reason, especially from rural areas. Some stayed the night, paid in kind. One patient left her a car that would not drive, which she did not realize because she never owned a drivers’ license.
A conscious and loyal companion from the first hour on. She took on young doctors in her office and continued it with them as a joint practice. There are no great deeds known of her, except that she had a sound sleep in the mornings. She spent her last years in Urfeld by the Walchensee together with her friend Helene von Ungern-Sternberg. Later on she told of a nightly conversation with her:
One evening, as I was sitting with Helene in her room before going to bed, we started talking about the future and also about death. And Helene said: You know, I do fear dying a little; I think to myself: If I am expected to and must answer for everything I’ve done, then I don’t know… I didn’t always do everything as I was supposed to. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say and think then.
And then I said: You know, I also think about death. But when I do, I always think of the eternal city that comes down from the heavens, adorned like a bride. When God builds the eternal city, then He’ll sit there at the end of days and look at an enormous pile of stones, all of the people that belong to it; and then, first off, He’ll sort the stones. He looks for the precious stones, the semiprecious stones, then also those with slight marks, traces of damage. He says to himself: That doesn’t matter, we can work them in. Then He looks at the others that may be more damaged and says to Himself: There are so many spots in my city where you can’t see everything, they’ll fit there as well and will be beautiful and shine. And then He selects the blocks of marble, the beautiful ones, the grained ones and the ones that have small flaws, then the bricks – He will sort everything. And when He's done He will have a big pile of stones. He’ll say to himself: Pity, they’re living stones, but I’ll have to throw them away. Suddenly it occurs to Him: I still have to make the foundation; a city like the one I am building needs a strong, sturdy foundation. Good, He’ll say, that I still have these stones, they will all go into the foundation and then I’ll add a lot of mortar, that will bind them together so that none of them are alone. That will make for a strong foundation, on which I will build my city.
As I was telling of the stones and the sorting, Helene sat there with big, fearful eyes; when I came to the foundation her eyes sparkled and she said: Yes, you’re right: it’s enough for the foundation. And when, at some point, I’m sitting in the foundation, I’ll call out: Annemarie, are you there, too? And then you’ll say: Yes, I’m also here, sitting in the foundation, really close to you. And then we’ll chat for all eternity.
Before her last wish was fulfilled, she still wanted to travel to Wladiwostok on the Trans Siberian Train. A beatification process has not been initiated. ars