Facebook is very good at reminding of things that you have done in the past. For example, today it reminded me that three years ago my friend Nancy and I arrived in Berlin. It was a great visit only marred by the fact that we were both quite ill - me at the arrival and Nancy near the end. We didn't get to do everything that we had wanted but we still had a great time. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much that Paul has insisted that go to Berlin this fall after our visit to Poland.
here are some shots from my time in Berlin in 2013 . . .
Last week I posted some pics from my 2013 trip to Amsterdam with my friend Nancy. After a week in Amsterdam we hopped the train and took a looooooooong train ride to Berlin. I was sick as a dog for the entire 14 hour journey however I managed to pull myself together by the time we arrived in the German capital.
I was thinking again about my Berlin trip. One of the interesting things about the city was the way the Berlin wall had such a huge and unintended impact on the modern city. The wall was huge - 155 km long - it cut a huge swath through the city as there was land on either side which was left clear to prevent people from crossing it. As a result, when it came down in 1990 there was a significant amount of land suddenly available for development.
Here are some shots of note from my trip:
The brick line shows the location of the wall.
Standing on either side of the wall.
The spot where Ronald Regan gave his speech during which he declared 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!'
The longest remaining piece of the wall located near the Topography of Terror museum.
Pieces of the wall have been preserved and are used as 'canvas' for artists.
You're likely wondering about these pictures and what the heck it has to do with this week's theme of 'shelter'.
The top picture is a parking lot. It isn't that important but what is or rather, was, underneath it is important. This is where Hitler had his secret bunker in WWII. Located 50 feet below the surface, the bunker is a witness of the last days of the Third Reich--the last days of Adolf Hitler; his last futile military commands, his marriage, his last will and political testament, and ultimately his death. Nowadays, the bunker is sealed off. No one is allowed to enter it. One can only walk around and ponder about what was going on inside it in the last days of the war.
The Germans took this position because they didn't want it to become a pilgrimage site. Hard to imgine that anyone would care but some folks do hold Hitler and his twisted plans for Aryan world domination to high regard.
The green garbage bin?
This was the secret exit to the bunker that could be used for escape if necessary. Sort of fitting that it has a giant trash bin on top.
With the reunification of Germany there has been more of an attempt to come to grips with the horrors of the country's Nazi past. The sign is the only indication that this residential parking lot, within a stone's throw of the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, is of significance at all.
A year ago I was in Berlin with my friend Nancy. On January 13th we had a walking tour booked that was not for the feint of heart - it was called the Topography of Terror.
Our wonderful guide Chris
This 3-hour walking tour explored the 12 years that still gape like an open wound at the center of Germany’s 20th century history: the years between 1933 and 1945 when Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party (the Nazis) steered Germany into war and terror. In the company of a 20th century historian, we explored the rise of the Nazis to power, the horrors and tragedies of their regime, and the events and circumstances that led to their fall. We visited some of the monuments designed and envisioned by Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer that bear active witness to the reign of the Third Reich, trying to come to terms with this traumatic “past that will not pass away,” and in so doing will link Nazi history to the modern Berlin.
We met at the Brandenburg Gate, from where we were able to look down the long, straight Strasse des 17. Juni, one of the main boulevards in Albert Speer’s proposed plan for the new monumental center of “World Capital Germania,” as Nazi Berlin was to be renamed. After a discussion of this plan and the imagined city we found ourselves at the memorial of the central tragedy of the Nazi regime: Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
This controversial and enigmatic monument provided us with a context to examine the Nazi policy toward Jews and others whom they identified as “inferior races,” a policy most clearly revealed in the Nuremberg Laws that provided the horrific “final solution to the Jewish question” in 1942.
The spot where Ronald Regan made his 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall' speech.
Memorial to Soviet War Dead - the Nazis were particularly ruthless with killing Soviet soldiers that they captured. Some 14,000,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in the war.
As we walked through the former Wilhemstrasse government quarter of Berlin we passed many other sites, memorials, and works of architecture that helped us confront the realities of Nazi rule including the former site of Hitler’s Chancellery, the (now built-over) location of the Führerbunker, the former Reich Ministry of Aviation (Luftwaffe), and other major offices that orchestrated the war.
Don't start with 'Jerry posted a picture of a garbage can . . . he has lost it.' This garbage can marks the spot where Hitler's private bunker had an escape route in the Chancellery gardens and into a nearby forest
The former office of the Air Force - Chris showed us how the Nazis used architectural features to dehumanize and intimidate those who entered the buildings.
We concluded at the recently opened Topography of Terror exhibition at the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters, an exhibition that represents the most self-conscious effort in the city to uncover the Nazi legacy of a particular place. The nature and organization of the exhibition will gave us considerable food for thought. Instead of trying to provide a final statement about the horrors of Germany’s Nazi past, the Topography of Terror museum is committed to an active engagement with that past, contextualizing it by using place to make history vivid, comprehensible, and inextricably connected to the present.
This last stop was, in many senses, the primary focus of the entire walking tour. We were encouraged not merely to “historicize” the Third Reich by separating it completely from the present, but rather are trying to grapple with Berlin’s Nazi legacy—and especially with the sites that remain linked to it—in order to understand how this legacy shapes Berlin today. I was shocked at how many of these 'control' strategies are still being used to some extent by governments today to manipulate the public and promote a rather narrow agenda.
We left the snow behind and headed to California for a long weekend of fun. We shoppedm toured wineries, tasted olive oil, met up with good friends, and ate some wonderful food. I can't wait for slow bowl 2009.