But also because, she says, for all her experiences, Berlin is her hometown and its people once did their best to spare her a terrible fate.
“I had a different feeling for Germany because I met Germans who did something that was very, very much forbidden,” she says. “It could have cost their head. And this was also part of my decision to come back to Berlin, because I met some good people.
“And now again, I met wonderful people whom I’m very happy to reach out to because they are grateful [that I] do what I do, to come back. And because they say, ‘Here you do belong too.'”
Bourgeois and bohemian
One consequence of Friedlander’s return to Berlin is the recent decision to make her an honorary citizen of the city in recognition for her work. She gleefully points out that she’s survived considerably longer than previous recipients of the title.
“Hitler, Goering and Goebbels were also honorary citizen,” she says. “And today a Jewish woman gets to be an honorary citizen.”
She adds: “I still love Berlin and I wish I would be a little younger to be more able to take part of all the things.”
Those things may or may not include Anja Pavlova’s burlesque performance at the Hoochie Koo, a regular night staged in Berlin’s Roadrunner Rock & Motor Club.
Pavlova, a Russian who moved to Berlin in 2017 to tap into the city’s exotic cabaret scene, speaks eloquently about how the different sides of the city manage to live alongside each other.
In the former West Berlin, “you have these bourgeois German grandmothers in their furs and pearls,” Pavlova tells CNN. And 20 minutes away by train in the former East, “moms at the playground with the tattoos on their necks and dreadlocks … on their phones and drinking beer in broad daylight while their kids play around naked.”
“They just coexist. They just happen. And they don’t really influence each other, and that I find the most charming thing about Berlin.”
Can that coexistence, that winning blend of bourgeois and bohemian — that sense of openness — survive as the city continues to gentrify, prices rise and the world moves on?
“Even in the last year I can feel that the pace is picking up, there’s more business,” Pavlova laments. “But it’s still the city where anything goes.”