We went on a walking tour of Berlin. It had all the usual things that one expects from any city, a mixture of pride, bragging and historical events. Unlike Dublin where the statues tend to be of poets and artists the statues here (as in London) tend to be of victorious generals and politicians. I had not however expected the evidence of terror to be so close to the surface. There is little of the Berlin Wall left, but what is there is very oppressive. It borders the ruins of the Gestapo headquarters. When you stand where the barracks were you look across to the torture chambers. When you raise your eyes from the remains of the cells you see the remains of the wall. It is the same bit of wall that Dieter hacked bits out of the week the wall came down in 1989.
Further on you see the University. A grand building where Albert Einstein taught. Evidently before 1936 one in every 3 Nobel Prize winners were educated there. It looks like the sort of thing one would expect to see on a City tour. When we looked down at the ground there was a “window” in the flagstones. If you peer through it you can see a room full of empty bookshelves. It is a memorial to the night when the university was raided and all the un-German books were burnt. Further across the city is the Synagog. It was being wrecked during “Chrystal Night”along with most other Jewish shops buildings and. We were told how a single police officer had persuaded the SA to leave the building and not raze it to the ground. It was called “The miracle of Chrystal Night” People could not believe it had survived the destruction. It was hit by an RAF bomb later in the war. The shell of the building was rebuilt after the war.
I cant bring myself to write about the feeling of walking through the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. It consists of a range of featureless concrete blocks with passageways between them. No added sound, no images, no words just the experience of walking through the featureless blocks. Indescribable, unbelievable.
These particular buildings are the upmarket ones. They were for the “Safe East Berliners” the ones that had a good standard of living and did not want to escape. They are only a few hundred meters from the American lines. More interestingly these particular apartments are on the spot where Hitler had his Rich Chancellory. The Bunker has now been filled with cement so it is in fact a large solid block. It is sited immediately underneath the white trailer you can see in the centre of the picture. When Eva Braun took Cyanide and Hitler shot himself the bodies were placed on the ground soaked in petrol and burned.This was on the area that is now grassed over at the bottom of the picture. Bodies need an air flow to burn properly and given the shallow nature of the grave there was no air flow. Consequently they burnt in a grotesque way eventually sitting upright and making a screaming noise as the air and internal organs expanded. A terrified SS soldier saw this happen as he fled the Bunker.