When I was told that Knofo died earlier that morning on September 16, I was at a birthday party at a mutual friend’s bar. Randomly, I was standing next to an old RAF-era German wanted poster for ‚Violent Anarchists’ that the bar had framed and hung on the wall like an ironic joke; even more like an ironic joke, though, was Knofo—his picture among those most wanted, looking back out at me from the frame.
Also randomly, I had thought about him unusually often over the week before—I don’t know why exactly, but probably due to some personal decisions I made about turning my focus of writing more towards examining the ethics of everyday life. He wasn’t a close friend of mine— but the times I spent with him made a really massive impression on me. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, but I think he was someone who crossed my path at exactly the right moment; he didn’t politicize me, per se; rather, he taught me with open arms about writing, right and wrong, and the power that thinking for yourself can bring into your life.
His name on the poster was Norbert Kröcher, but I think only the police called him that. In the 1960s-70s he was a part of the terrorist group ‘Bewegung 2. Juni’— sort of the more pacifistic counterpart to the RAF of the time. One of his main occupations for the group was to pull off pacifistic bank heists to financially support their operations. At some point, he got caught and sat in jail for many years, did his time, and then he got out. He used to tell crazy stories of bank heists and bank heists gone bad—for instance, when he and his clique made the poor choice of trying to rob a bank on the day the retired pensioners happened to be coming to cash their pension checks: ‘This is a bank robbery!’ ‘Yes, son, ok. Just let us cash our checks and then you can do your thing.’—The exchange resulted in him shooting some warning shots into the ceiling and then having a big section of the hanging ceiling come down on him. He also told crazy stories of dealings with Andreas Baader and the RAF—it was clear that their extremism wasn’t really his cup of tea. All in all, despite that they actually happened, these stories always seemed a bit like fairy tales to me, because, after he had done and lived through these stories, he had gone on to do so much more.
For us, his name was Knofo and what made him so special was how wide-eyed he lived. He was such a crazy diamond of a personality in a world of personalities made of coal—running into him made you smile—I learned a lot about how to live by just seeing HIS smile. He was a magical creature because he was aware; he looked at all the idiosyncrasies of life straight on and wide-eyed, and life came at him full-force straight on—BAAM! –and then he would just smile…..
One of my favorite memories involving him he wasn’t actually there. I remember sitting with the poet Bert Papenfuss in our courtyard around 2009, Bert was bitching about how Knofo had given him Andreas Baader’s black leather jacket, (me (very quietly): ‘So. You have Andreas Baader’s jacket?’ Bert ‘YES!?!’) Then Bert went in the house, came out with the jacket, and slammed it down on the picnic table (Bert: ‘And what am I supposed to do with it now?’) Actually, one reason that made me love Knofo so much was his friendship to Bert and how he was so often able to lovingly aggravate this absolutely serene guy—that Knofo could get such a quiet person to be so animated made me love him to the absolute core.
Knofo, among other things, was a writer and was really active in the literature scene here in Berlin, bringing international progressive writers into the city for readings. I’m grateful for the literary education he indirectly gave me through all of HIS writing and readings and the readings he organized, and for the times he asked me to host these writers at my flat while they were here. I’m grateful to Knofo for the amazing talks I had with these people about their work, their lives, and about the places they came from, while I was drinking coffee with them at my breakfast table. I cite these experiences as having had a major impact on my writing—not just with content, but also with sentence structure and experimentation with grammar and voice.
I’m grateful that Knofo crossed my path, making me challenge many pre-conceived notions I had been fed by society since birth. He was one of the people who fostered me to trust my own intuition and just live; that the most important gift a person has is the ability to think for themselves, the ability to sift through all the daily ‘right and wrong’ bullshit thrown at us and decisions we are forced to make (and something that so devastatingly few people actually do.)
Rest in peace, my dear Knofo! Your light has gone out in the world and we really feel it. God bless you, you crazy diamond. Until we meet you again, you will be quite terribly missed.