Berlin must-sees: Bebelplatz

18 08 2007

Bebelplatz (Bebel square) on Unter den Linden was designed by Frederick the Great, who became ruler of Germany in 1740, and was a great patron of the arts. It was first known as “Frederick’s Forum”, and later as “Opernplatz” (Opera square). In 1947 it was named Bebelplatz, after August Bebel, a leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in the 19th century.

On May 10th, 1933, Bebelplatz was the site of the notorious Nazi book burning event, organized by the minister for propaganda and public enlightenment, Joseph Goebbels. More than 20,000 books written by Jews, Communists and others, including Marx, Freud, the Manns, Kästner and Heine, were burned there in a large pyre.

Since 1995, this event has been commemorated by a monument designed by the Israeli artist Micha Ulmann. The monument is a plastic transparent window set into the ground, through which you can see an empty library. It’s very easy to miss in this pretty large square, so look carefully.

Bebel Platz book burning monument.

Next to the monument there’s a plaque, bearing the words of the poet Heinrich Heine, from his tragedy “Almansor”, written in 1820 – more than 100 years before the book burning event: “where books are burned, in the end people will burn” (“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen”).

On September 9, 2006, an organization called “Dropping Knowledge”, which aims to encourage social change through dialogue, held an event named “The Table of Free Voices” in Bebelplatz, a very appropriate location for that, if you ask me. You can read all about it, and much more, in their website.


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6 responses to “Berlin must-sees: Bebelplatz”

18 08 2007
Czech Daily (15:45:33) :

HOLY COW! A blog about my most favorite city in the world. I am putting this in my blogroll and I am coming every day!!!! Promise. Please write about the S-Bahn from time to time :))))

19 08 2007
yonit (09:31:22) :

Thanks. We had a post about public transportation earlier. Is there anything else we should add about the S-bahn? (It's our favorite too, btw).

19 08 2007
Czech Daily (10:53:57) :

About old unused tracks! Like the one that leads to Spandau, or to a forest in south-east, I think somewhere under Hohe Warte (?).

19 08 2007
yonit (11:38:22) :

I guess we'll just have to go back to Berlin to find this, and take some pictures… (hopefully in October). I think that the Hohe Warte is in Wien, though.

19 08 2007
Czech Daily (12:29:33) :

Ahhh, right. I meant Krumme Lanke. Kind of similar, eh? Sorry about that.

19 08 2007
yonit (12:52:39) :

Happens to the best… anyway, we'll check it out, but we still have to go through the more known attractions before we get to the really interesting things…

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