The city of memorials: take one

There are so many memorials in Berlin, you couldn’t see them all in one trip (or maybe ever), let alone in one blog post. So this is Take One. Take One covers memorials I came across that I found interesting in some way at the time. On reflection, the diversity of these memorials show that there is no template for what we memorialise, what memorials look like, how we experience memorials and how memorials come to being.

Stumbling Stones

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Here lived. There are over 27,000 of these Stumbling Stones in over 600 cities and towns across Europe. Each stone represents a person deported and murdered by the Nazi regime during World War II. They are placed in the ground outside buildings that were once homes to the people who are named on the stones.

“The stumbling blocks become reminders and voices; they call out, ‘Every human being has a name.’” –  Miriam Gillis-Carlebach, daughter of Hamburg’s last rabbi.*

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The Salinger Family. The stones list each family members name, the date they were deported and the location of their death.

Große Hamburger Straße Cemetery

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This memorial sculpture was placed outside the Große Hamburger Straße Cemetery in 1985.   Große Hamburger Straße Cemetery is Berlin’s oldest Jewish cemetery. It was desecrated by the Nazi’s in 1943, and then used as air raid shelters, shored up by demolished grave stones. In 1945 the cemetery was used as a mass grave for civilians and soldiers killed in Allied air strikes. Approximately 3,000 war victims, only 2,000 are known by name, alongside approximately 3,000 Jewish dead.
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It is a Jewish custom to leave a small stone on a grave site as a sign someone as visited the grave. People have placed all the stones shown in this picture and the one above.

Missing House, Große Hamburger Straße 15/16

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The gap between these two buildings on Große Hamburger Straße represents a building that took a direct hit during an Allied air raid. The plaques on the buildings on either side of the space are names of the former residents.

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Book burning memorial, Bebelplatz

While the majority of memorials are dedicated to commemorating the lives of people who have died, some commemorate other kinds of loss. This one is a great example.

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This memorial is a subterranean library that could accommodate up to 20,000 books. This represents the 20,000 pieces of work by journalists, writers, scientists and philosophers that was burned by the Nazi’s on this spot on 10 May, 1933.

That was only a prelude, there where they burn books, they burn in the end people.
Heinrich Heine, 1820.

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This plaque accompanies the library. The quote in the top left hand corner is translated above.

East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 kilometre section of the former Berlin Wall on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg that has been converted into an open air gallery. It is the largest (or perhaps, the longest? :)) open-air gallery in the world, painted by 118 artists from 21 countries. Some people call it a memorial to freedom.

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The East Side Gallery has been frequently vandalised, so that could be why the fence is up. Not sure though. It’s not the first, and likely won’t be the last, memorial to be vandalised.

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One side of the wall is currently hosting a photography exhibition called the War on Wall: An exhibition about the war In Syria.

* Quote from the Stumbling Stones website

6 Comments

  1. What did you think about the memorial to the murdered homosexuals? It blew my mind, I thought it was fantastic. My sister hated it, and informed me that because I’m a disaster nerd and she’s an everyday person, her view on it counted more. Unsurprisingly, I disagree…

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    1. Haha. Sister love 🙂 I liked that you had to engage with it to understand it, otherwise it’s just a big concrete box. Which I guess is symbolic of particular groups being persecuted because other groups haven’t engaged with or understood them. Most of the Holocaust related memorials I found, except perhaps the Stumbling Stones and the Roma/Sinti one, are more statement pieces than the reflective/commemorative style most people associate with memorials. Probably why we like them 🙂 I’ve also discovered I’m a fan of most experiential type memorials.

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    2. I think the thing I liked most about it was the video loop that showed current, more insidious forms of persecution and linked them to the war – I took the statement to be ‘discrimination is still going on for this group’. I thought it was quite thought provoking in that while you’d imagine everyone (hopefully?) visiting the memorial would consider the persecution during the war abhorrent, it might make them consider whether they were a partaking in a quieter, hidden form of discrimination that’s not so harshly judged.

      Or maybe that’s just what I read into it? That’s what makes it all so interesting though, right?

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  2. I also thought it was interesting when I was there that lots of people seemed to be spending time in the Roma / Sinti one. I couldn’t decide whether it was location / position or whether it was because it was a more traditional format and people knew how to interact with it

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    1. There were definitely more people at the Roma/Sinti one when I was there. Though it was also a pain to access them both as the Euros were on at the time and they had the whole park barricaded off (did you see my fun memorial hunting video on insta? That was the day!), so I wouldn’t call it based on my experience. I think the Roma/Sinti one is ‘easier’ to interact with, particularly for groups – it’s pleasant, you could sit on the grass if you want and still ‘be at the memorial’, you find more information as you move around it – but with the Homosexual one only one person can experience it at a time, which in itself is powerful but probably means people are less likely to linger. Anyway I’m not sure it bothers me whether people like memorials themselves or not as much as what they make people feel That’s what you take away right? And I think many, maybe the better ones, make you feel things you don’t necessarily like or are uncomfortable with. As for you and me, we’re nerds so we like them for different reasons!

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