Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pt. 11 Finale:Berlin's Rough Patch

Berlin had a rough fifty years in the latter half of the twentieth century. If nothing else, it certainly as made the really good at memorializing.

First up was the Jewish museum. The only building in Berlin with more barriers and security (including the Reichstag) was the U.S. consulate. It's not so much for the threat of someone attacking it, but rather the demonstration of how serious they were about it.

The architecture was remarkable, and purposefully disorienting. It's dominated by this crazy criss-cross pattern.

Apparently this can be reconfigured into the Star of David.

Among the various instilations meant to deal with themes like diaspora, there was this one-

The room, with a ceiling several stories high, was filled with thousands of metal carved faces-

The visitor is invited to walk on them, which once suggested becomes a disturbing prospect. It's at once a hamhanded and effective symbol. In the antiseptic atmosphere of the museum, sharing the Perganon Museum's audio tour silenced vistors-wandering out onto the instillation is a little surreal. The clanks of the metal faces against each other under foot echo through the chamber. I noted that it sounded a bit like their cries, and was disturbed by the fact that it made me walk further. Not to say it was a metal Stanford Prison Experiment, but still.

One of the center pieces was an instillation that was supposed to memorialize the disorientation of the uprooted Jewish people. You exit the building into a into a courtyard with uneven floors and tall rectangular columns with a plant canopy filtering the sun.

It's impressive, not so much the second time-

Apparently, when it came time to build a Jewish Holocaust Memorial there was a contest on the design. The winner? A large expanse with an uneven floor and tall gray rectangular columns. One hundred feet from the Jewish History Museum, with it's display with an uneven floor and tall gray rectangular columns.

Also, disappointingly, it's the Jewish Holocaust Memorial because the counsel representing the Jewish community did not want to share this memorial with other victims of the Holocaust, meaning that homosexuals and gypsies had different, non-central memorials.

Across the street was a clutch of shops and restaurants, one of which had this out front-


There were reminders of that dark part of Berlin's history-a plaque down the street from my host's apartment noted a former train depot where Jews were loaded on board. It was a little harrowing, at least this time I had something to compare it with. It was the same feeling that hit me when I found out the mall I performed as the Easter Bunny was on the site of a Japanese internment camp. Not as severe by orders of magnitude, but still...

But that history doesn't leave the same kind of scar as the Berlin Wall. They only recently have started to create the memorial to that, preserving one section-

complete with 'zone of death'-

It's hard to imagine any country would want to build something like this again.

Just sayin'.

Well, that's it-that's the Germany trip. If you read through each update hoping for something like, "How the hell did someone like you end up in Germany?" and "Who is 'the host'?" well, sorry. Maybe later.

The complete photo album can be seen here. Maybe I'll even get around to labeling all of them...

1 comment:

  1. Well done post, I'm going to have to check out more of your photos.