Here are some images from our day in Berlin:
By the way, this is the REAL Budwar “Budweiser” beer from the Czech Republic, not the Dutch owned “American King of Beers”.
Berlin is a city fettered to the tragedies of its 20th Century past. The people of this city could have easily turned their back on this past, or worse declared it to be “fake news”, but they recognize that ignorance of history merely perpetuates the malignancy of the past. This city lives the lesson taught in 1863 by Spanish philosopher George Santayana that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There are current world leaders who could benefit from that lesson.
The people of Berlin have taken the fetters of the 20th Century and made them into the jewelry of the 21st Century… their version of beating swords into plowshares. Take for example Herman Goehring’s Luftwaffe headquarters. When built in 1935 it was the largest government building in Europe. It was one of the few centers of Nazi government to survive the bombs of World War 2.
Today, it has been modernized into a clean and efficient center of finance. Facing it across the street is a large information display that declares its use under the Nazi and Communist regimes, and its proximity to the events surrounding the Berlin Wall.
The Reichstag, a focal point of government under the Third Reich, retains its classic exterior but the war destroyed interior has been replaced by an ultramodern interior. 20% of the cost of reconstruction was dedicated to art, much of it pertaining to the tragedy of the Nazi past. Among the displays was a 20 foot portion of the tunnel that played a part in the mysterious fire of 1933 that the Nazis used as a pretext to suspend many personal rights within the country.
Of course there is the 5 acre Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,
and the outline of the Berlin Wall.
There is Checkpoint Charlie,
and the nearby “Mauermuseum” dedicated to the history of the infamous Berlin Wall and the spirit of those who sought to escape it.
The Brandenburg Gate, is adjoined by a Room of Silence, a place for silent contemplation of the past.
The “Palace of Tears” was once a border crossing between East and West Germany at the Friedrichstrasse Train Station. It is now a museum to that past and juxtaposes images and films produced by each side concerning events of the times.
Of course there is much more. My point is that the beauty of Berlin is not limited to its architecture. It extends to the soul of a people who are committed to remind themselves and the world that the 20th Century is a recent past and the bigotry, xenophobia, and State sanctioned criminality of that time may become the heritage of any country that ignores the lessons of that past.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Our exchange student “son” Andre shared with us two large and well organized volumes of memorabilia from his yearlong stay with us in 1992-93. There were pictures, news clippings, and the other items common to such personal collections. It was great fun to be reminded of our own youth (40 at the time!) and forgotten family times.
One item held my attention. In 1992, 16 year old Japanese foreign exchange student Yoshi Hattori was shot to death in Baton Rouge Louisiana by Rodney Peairs. Yoshi was on his way to a party and went to the wrong house by mistake. The homeowner, Peairs, was acquitted upon his testimony that he thought the boy presented a threat to him. The tragedy and the outcome of the trial were addressed in a letter to the other exchange students. It is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago.
For more details on Yoshi’s death and the string of similar tragedies that followed here is a link: The Death of Yoshi Hattori