My wife and I recently spent a week in Berlin as part of extended 5 week holiday in Europe.
Berlin recently over took Rome to became the third most visited city in Europe after Paris and London. The whole history of Berlin is fascinating but I was quite struck how the Germans are facing their past Nazi history.
The most revealing location is the Topography of Terror museum which is about the rise and actions of the Nazis. The museum is located on site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. The new museum was finally opened in 2010 on the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII. There is a permanent exhibition area inside which focuses on the central institutions of the SS and police during the “Third Reich” and the crimes that they committed throughout Europe. With the help of mostly photographic material on a “ribbon of panels” and documents (facsimiles) presented at subject-oriented lecterns, visitors are led through the major themes of the exhibition’s five main segments: The National Socialist Takeover of Power (I); Institutions of Terror (SS and Police) (II); Terror, Persecution and Extermination on Reich Territory (III); SS and Reich Security Main Office in the Occupied Countries (IV); and The End of the War and the Postwar Era (V).
There is also an temporary exhibition trench which is currently showing “Berlin 1933–1945: Between Propaganda and Terror” and addresses National Socialist policy in Berlin and its consequences for the city and its population. It shows how the National Socialists were able to gain a foothold in “red” Berlin and gradually establish the city as the political center of its leadership. The main chapters of the exhibition are arranged in different colors in a trench along the exposed segments of a cellar wall and provide information about: Berlin in the Weimar Republic (I), Establishing the Führer’s Dictatorship (II), Berlin and the “People’s Community” (III), Wartime in Berlin 1939–1945 (IV); and Berlin and the Consequences of the Nazi Regime (V).
I am not a trained historian but credit to the Germans, it looked like nothing was being held back and there are multiple school tours underway. The story line is that the German people fell under the spell of a brilliant psychopath who manipulated his way into power, ruthlessly used it to obliterate any opposition and then ruined the country. It is up to the German People and Government to ensure that they do not allow such an event to happen again. Confronting your sick emotional past openly and then taking steps to ensure it is not repeated to me is true emotional intelligence.
We saw several more examples of this emotional self control in Berlin. A wonderful example is the brilliant Norman Foster Dome on the top of the Reichstag building. It is transparent to reflect that government needs to be transparent. The politicians debating in the Bundestag can also look up and see the people walking around above them. The idea is that the politicians need to realise it is the people who are on top in a democracy not them.
During the summer there is light & sound show next Reichstag that also is worth seeing and again reinforces the messages that it is important that government must be transparent and the people must not allow a psychopath to gain control ever again.
If you are fan of Homeland Series 5 has just started and not only is it partially set in Berlin but also is dealing with similar themes.
If you want to read my travel blog about Berlin go here.
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