Topography of Terror: construction finally started, again

15 11 2007

Some two weeks ago, the German government finally announced the beginning of the construction of an exhibition center at the site which used to house once the Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Offices in Berlin (located on the Prinz Albrecht Terrain at Niederkirchnerstrasse 8), to complete the memorial known as the “Topography of Terror”.

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6 10 2007

Tiergarten (translation: “animal garden”) is Berlin’s Central Park (although somewhat smaller than New York’s). It is located in the heart of the city, and is a popular outdoor oasis for Berliners and tourists.

An oasis in the middle of the city.

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Berlin, Alexanderplatz – the novel

28 09 2007

Berlin Alexanderplatz is a novel by Alfred Döblin, published in 1929. It is a story about a small time criminal, Franz Biberkopf, who at the beginning of the book had just got out of prison, his struggle to become a good rehabilitated citizen, and his road back to the underworld. It is situated in the Alexanderplatz district, which was a working class district in 1920s Berlin. It’s really a wonderful book, that besides telling a captivating story, also gives you a very tangible feeling of the time and place.

Döblin was a German expressionist writer. His father, who abandoned the family when Döblin was 10, was Jewish, and he held leftist political views, so when the Nazis came to power, he lived in exile in France, and then in the USA, like many other German intellectuals and writers.

The novel was adapted twice into a movie. The first time was in 1931. The author himself worked on the adaptation, and it was directed by Piel Jutzi. It was 85 minutes long. The second time was in 1980, when Rainer Werner Fassbinder (quite an fascinating character) adapted it to a 15 and a half hours long film. Yes, 15 and a half hours. You read right.

Anyway, I really loved the book, and think it’s very worth reading. If you wish, you can purchase it on Amazon. Just click on the picture to do so.

Belin, Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin

Berlin Must-Sees: Potsdamer Platz

18 09 2007

Before WW2, Potsdamer Platz was a very busy square, a central transportation hub, with numerous bars, cafés and cinemas. The place was badly damaged in the war, and after the war, it became a junction of the American, British and Soviet sectors, and was cut through by the Berlin Wall. So it became a no man’s land in the middle of the city.

After the Wall came done, the area around Potsdamer Platz became the biggest construction site in Europe. Between the years 1993 and 1998, a completely new quarter was built there, very modern, with high rise buildings and a lot of metallic décor. The square, together with several adjacent blocks, were redeveloped under the supervision of the architects Wilmer and Sattler.

Potsdamer Platz.

The DaimlerChrysler complex.

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The Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

2 09 2007

This monster of a memorial, which was unveiled in May 2005, is located in a very central place, near the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. It is based on a design by Peter Eisenman, an American architect. The “Field of Stelea” is made of 2,711 concrete blocks of different heights, structured in a grid pattern. It can be entered anywhere, and the blocks are supposed to form different wave-like patterns as you move through it. I didn’t really notice that. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The Memorial after rain.

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Berlin Must-Sees: The Reichstag

30 08 2007

The Reichstag is the seat of the German Bundestag (federal government), near Brandenburg Gate at the west end of the Mitte quarter. It was constructed from 1884-1894 by the architect Paul Wallot. The inscription “Dem Deutschen Volke” was added in 1916, during WW1.

Dem Deutschen Volke.

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Berlin must-sees: Around Bebelplatz

20 08 2007

Bebelplatz is surrounded by the State Opera (Staatoper), St. Hedwig’s cathedral and the Alte Bibliothek (the old library), and is located across the road from the Humboldt University.
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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.

Berlin must-sees: Brandenburg Gate

4 08 2007

Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is one of the most prominent “trademarks” of Berlin. Located at the west end of Mitte quarter it is the only remaining city gate, and also became a symbol of the division of the city, because it was situated in the “no-man’s land” just behind the wall (click on the images to enlarge).

Brandenburg Gate and bear. Brandenburg Gate ruins.

Brandenburg Gate Quadriga. Brandenburg gate at night.

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