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Tuesday, 12 October 2010


I think i shan't be doing the old "it's Nazi Germany" gibe for a while.

Our little trip to Berlin was quite the eye-opener. We stayed in a nice enough hotel on Auguststrasse just off Oranienbergerstrasse which was one of the major thoroughfairs of Jewish Berlin. We could see the elaborate dome of the Neue Synagogue from our room. It was within my lifetime in the Soviet sector of the divided city which means that there is only now a move to gentrify the streets. Theres a sharp contrast between the chic galleries and the mouldering ex-industrial buildings. And its the only European City that Ive experienced with vast tracts of rough ground within a walk of the centre.

Its a scarred city too, the pocked surface of many surfaces, whether is the plaster side of a building or the columns of the museums clustered on Museum Insel or the headstones in the cemeteries. Its scars are deep too and while life goes on, lets not forget that youd have to been in early old age now to be a witness to the deaththroes of the thousand year Reich and the soviet armies utter destruction of the city there is beginning of historical pespective appearing,reassessments of the cities dark past.

One of these is Solpersteine, small brass inlays dedicated to those who used to live within the walls behind the street. Tall, tidy houses for the most part - usually divided up into apartments. Sometimes singles sometimes small groups or three or four usually with the same surname placed at residenst request by a German artist Gunther Hemnig. Its the utter banality, the ordinariness of the sites, the familiarity of the places names - Auschwitz, Theriesenstadt, Riga. Lodz that gets you. The spectres of these families suitcased, hatted being "escorted" from their homes that lingers. The quiet suburban streets not so different now from then. We were situated just round the corner from Grosser Hamburger Strasse and the desecrated Jewish cemetary not to mention the empty house - a gap ripped into the row of houses , emblematic of the gap in German society with the names and occupations of the old tenements ex-occupants.
So far over 20,000 Stolpersteine have been placed with 2,00 in berlin...

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