Berlin Remembers

Berlin is a vibrant, youthful city. Images from 1945 show a city nearly flattened. Even historic landmarks were mere shells. Then the communist period split the city in two. Since then the city has been completely rebuilt, often in ultramodern fashion. A few clear reminders of the unfortunate past are preserved as encouragement to never let those things happen again.

Cranes all over the city signify economic development. The crowded cafes along the river are filled with people from all over the world. This is the heart of Germany, but English, the lingua franca, can be heard in many different accents.

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The Berliner Dom, severely damaged in the war,  has been elaborately restored.

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In the crypt are entombed many of the Prussian Kings, Queens, and nobility from the 1700s until the first World War.

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Entry to the Cathedral includes the opportunity to climb the steep stairs to the rotunda for panoramic views of the city. This image includes the matching towers of of the Deutscher Dom and Französische Dom at the Gendarmenmarkt.

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The tower in this view, which is visible from most of the city, is the Fernsehenturm, or TV tower, built by the communists. I like the confrontation between it and the statue of Moses holding the tables of the Law.

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The Brandenburg gate is an iconic symbol of Berlin and Germany. The Berlin wall once stood right across the center of this view, blocking the gate. Now it is a pedestrian way and often the scenes of public gatherings such as holiday celebrations, large screen viewing of football matches and, often, demonstrations.

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Speaking of the wall, very little of it remains. There is a memorial along Bernauer Strasse with displays, audio commentary and a portion of the fortification, for that is what it was. One of the audio clips from an East German General explained how the wall was built to ensure the security of East Berlin, a transparent lie. It was actually built to keep people from escaping to the West. An interesting excavation exhibit explains how many tunnels were dug in this area for just that purpose. This is what an East Berliner might have seen if they were brave enough to look over the inner wall into the no-mans land.

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In 1989 to 1990 it took months to dismantle the entire wall. This section was appropriated by a number of artists who began painting scenes depicting the joy of their new found freedoms. There is also a lot of ordinary graffiti. At present there is an attempt to clean up and preserve some of the original work.

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This image, signed by Birgit K. shows a car of East German manufacture (Trabant) breaking through the wall. I saw a photo of this painting in an art market taken when it was defaced with scrawled names and other things. They did a nice job of cleaning it.

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Here’s a photo of a real Trabant in non-standard paint. One can rent them and drive around town.

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The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church was built in memory of the king who died in 1888 (not the WWI Wilhelm). The church was destroyed in WWII, leaving only the foyer and damaged tower. Rather than tear it down, the tower was preserved and a new church was built. The tower is nicknamed der Hohle Zahn, in English, The Hollow Tooth.

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Here is a view of the interior of the new building.

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One last symbol of a revived Berlin is the Reichstag, the home of the German parliament. This was left a hollow shell after the war. The glass rotunda, which is just visible in this image was designed by an Englishman, a sign of European reconciliation.

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