Posted by: lifeonislandtime | August 7, 2012




I found Berlin slightly underwhelming. Granted, we didn’t have as much time there as we wanted, but the sights we wanted to see we’re very uninspiring. I get that the German people want to forget that Hitler existed, started the war, and that many German citizens were ardent supporters or at least not vocally opposed to his regime. What I don’t understand, though, is the attitude of indifference. Not until recently has the government begun reparations payments to the families destroyed by Hitler, but it was only recently that monuments about Germany’s role in the war have started appearing.  Many that we were looking for (memorial to the 1934 book burning, memorial to the politicians who opposed Hitler, memorial to communists killed by Hitler) were very small, and surrounded by other things. The memorial to the politicians is surrounded by electrical cords and next to a security building for visitors going to the Reichstag. I had to ask where it was, then peer around a tangle of junk to see it. Once I did see it, it was tiny. It wasn’t even knee high, and only about 3 feet deep.  Even without being tucked in a tangle of junk, it has no explanation, just a small plaque with a quote in German.


The book burning memorial is just as hidden. In the square in front of Humboldt university, the square where the Nazis burned all of the “unacceptable” books, there is a monument to that event. It’s supposed to be a plexiglass panel in the square that looks down to empty bookshelves in the room below. We looked all over the square for it. Finally, Travis found it nearly covered by construction barricades, and being camped on by a homeless man. Once we found it and looked at it, it was also tiny. The glass window was only about 3 feet by 4 feet, in the back of a gigantic square. 


Once again, I am surprised by Europe’s treatment of the Second World War. Maybe it was because they still can’t get their collective minds around the loss of a generation, or because they don’t know how to handle the situation when they effectively started things. Of course, maybe it is just a symptom of being divided for so long. Each side dealt with the Nazis differently, and now 20 years after reunification everyone is collectively getting on the same page.


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