Something to remember, something to forget: Berlin’s memorials to chilling memories

Neue Wache

We left the Museum Island and walked on to Unter den Linden Street. There is no missing a beautiful neo classical building. Drawn by the crowds there I also went in.


Originally built as a guardhouse for the troops of the Crown Prince of Prussia, by architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel the Neue Wache ( or New Guard House) building has been used as a war memorial since 1931.

Nothing prepared me for what I saw inside. Its a huge bare room with an open roof. Under it sits the Käthe Kollwitz sculpture Mother with her Dead Son and the oculus, which exposes the sculpture to the elements.




The oculus or opening in the roof for the elements to pour in, seemed to me to symbolise the enlightenment of those who pause to reflect on the ravages of war.

Interestingly enough since Unter den Linten was in the Soviet part of Berlin , in 1960 the repaired Neue Wache was reopened as a Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism. In 1969, the 20th anniversary of the GDR, a glass prism structure with an eternal flame was placed in center of the hall. And the remains of the Unknown Soldier and of an unknown concentration camp victim from World War II were enshrined in the building.
Something which seemed quite incompatible to many!

Book Burning Memorial
In Berlin, some 40,000 people gathered in the Opernplatz / now Bebelplatz to hear Joseph Goebbels deliver a fiery address: “No to decadence and moral corruption!” Goebbels enjoined the crowd. “Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner.”
On 10th May 1933 members of the SA (“brownshirts”), SS, Nazi students and Hitler Youth groups burnt pver 20,000 books.


Bebelplatz with the Opera House on the left ( being reconstructed) , the Catholic Church, St. Hedwig in the centre , and end of square and the law dept of Humboldt University on the right





Just near it a line of Heinrich Heine is engraved, stating “Das war ein vorspiel nur wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen” (in English: “Where they burn books, they ultimately burn people”)
Heine was one of the authors whose books were burned that day.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
There are many memorials in Berlin and most of them symbolic.

The most famous of these is the memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also known as the Holocaust Memorial and is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. it is designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000 square metres (4.7 acres) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.




There are many explanations for this design . To me it seemed like so many tombstones but apparently according to Eisenman’s project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.
According to s 2005 copy of the Foundation for the Memorial’s official English tourist pamphlet,the design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial.
I suppose like all symbolism it depends on the imagination, scope and understanding of the viewer.


Topography of Terror

The most feared address in Berlin was the building located in the former Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse,now Niederkirchnerstrasse.I was easy to go in but almost impossible to come out. This was the Headquarter of the dreaded Gestapo and S,S the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era

During WW2 this location was heavily bombarded and whatever was left of it was later razed to the ground after the war.The boundary between the American and Soviet zones of occupation in Berlin ran along the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, so the street soon became a fortified boundary, and the Berlin Wall ran along the south side of the street.
Today there is an outdoor museum alongside the longest segment of remains of the outer Berlin Wall .

It chronicles the horrors and atrocities of the Nazis from the period 1933 to their fall in 1945.

This was one of the successful escapes from East Germany to West Germany using nylon ropes,

Soviets patrolling Berlin after the war

Berlin In Your Pocket – Topography of Terror

Its only when we openly admit our mistakes that we can redress them.a
India can you hear me?nd wounds can heal and we can move forward like Germans have.

Comment List

  • Reema Asnani 12 / 10 / 2012 Reply

    A very well written & descriptive blog.very informative as well, be it in terms of history, various things to do etc.also loved the numerous & vivid photographs.I really envy the fact that the Germans have beautifully & proudly maintained their heritage.All in all worth reading

    • RaanaSafvi 12 / 10 / 2012 Reply

      Thanks A lot. Yes the difference is in pride in heritage, cleanliness and upkeep. We have everything and much more in India but sadly neglected

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