My time in Berlin began with a nighttime walk along the longest remaining chunk of the Berlin wall. We went and enjoyed the murals as we talked and joked with each other, but the reality of the sight would occasionally creep into my consciousness. Today it’s a long stretch of outdoor art. Less than 30 years ago it was a prison wall that sprung up and drastically changed the lives of a generation.
As we walked, lightening began to illuminate the dark clouds and fat drops of rain dampened our clothes. Nature has its way of creating the appropriate soundtrack.
After the tour, my sister and I went to the Topography of Terror Museum. It is a part outdoor, part indoor museum that thoroughly relays how the Nazis systemically came to power and radically made history. The insanity of the whole thing settles in as you walk the outdoor timeline.
I couldn’t fully comprehend how quickly and systemically the situation escalated. Hitler and his cronies fell into a perfect storm of factors where they where able to persuade a broken people that things could be better and they were the men for the job.
“When you burn books, you will soon burn people.”
A few meters away is a hole in the ground covered by glass. If you look down at an angle, you can see rows of empty bookshelves that would hold roughly 20,000 books.
Okay, the soapbox is going back in the laundry room.
One of the amazing aspects of Berlin is that the city was demolished and rebuilt not very long ago. The buildings are new but done in an older style which boggles my mind. It feels like you could be in any other European city, but at the same time you know so much devastation happened in the exact place where you stand.
The Berliners don’t shy away from their messy past. It’s acknowledged, embraced and integrated into their normal life. I would think they would want the forget the horrific memories and opt for Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, but it seems to be the opposite. By subtly integrating their history into their march forward, they are able to live with the wounds and work for a better future.