MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Spend a few days in Berlin, and you'll soon become an expert in 20th- century history, says
The how-to guide to become an expert in 20th-century history.
An endless corridor lined with rooms once used for Stasi interrogations, an original aircraft from the 1948 Berlin Blockade, bunkers from the Nazi era: Anyone keen on history should add these sites to their Berlin to-do list.
On the site where the headquarters of Nazi Germany's repressive Gestapo and SS troops once stood, a modern building now houses the Topography of Terror (p. 36), an outdoor and indoor documentation center giving visitors a 360- degree view of the different tools of Nazi repression, the thinking behind the Nazi terror campaigns, and Nazi propaganda. The exhibition also explains forced labor and describes concentration camps, in an attempt to bring viewers to understand the inexplicable reasoning behind National Socialism.
The years that followed the end of the war were marked by major destruction and only partial reconstruction, and by the division of the city and later erection of the Berlin Wall. The DDR Museum (p. 39) houses a rather commercial but informative exhibition of what daily life in East Germany used to be like, while the
Tränenpalast border crossing adjacent to the Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station tells stories of long, tearful goodbyes between separated family members living on the two sides of the city.
The terror regime inflicted upon East Germans is well represented at the Stasi
Museum (p. 40), located inside the former Ministry of Security of the GDR, which shows how a large slice of the population was constantly being bugged, spied, and interrogated, hoping to catch dissidents and political opponents. When caught, these were then imprisoned in places like the Hohenschönhausen (www. stiftung-hsh.de) jail, where you can now listen to former inmates tell stories about their experiences of physical and psychological torture. To get a taste of what the Cold War was like for West Berliners, book a tour with Berliner Unterwelten (p. 36), taking you underground to Cold War bunkers created to protect the population in the event of an attack. Or visit the Allied Museum in Zehlendorf (www. alliiertenmuseum.de) to get a glimpse of the interaction of West Berliners with the US, UK, and French military forces stationed in the city from 1948 to 2004.
Clockwise from top left: The outdoor exhibition at the Topography of Terror; a Stasi office at the DDR Museum; visitors check out a Trabant car at the DDR Museum; school books. Inset, below: children try out the retro phones at the DDR museum.