Spend a few days in Ber­lin, and you'll soon be­come an ex­pert in 20th- cen­tury his­tory, says

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS - Solveig Steinhardt.

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. 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. al­li­ierten­mu­ 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.

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