Remnants of the Berlin Wall
The post title represented the beginning and the end of my Grandfather's grasp of the German language. As a child I was fascinated when he told stories of his war time experiences of which this line was a part. Landing in Normandy a couple of weeks after D-Day, his unit fought their way through France and into Holland (where a close encounter with a shell cost him his hearing and ended his active service). At the end of the war, he was involved in the liberation of Belsen camp and was involved in the administration and eventual destruction of the site (I may post on that soon). But, it was as the Germans were being pushed back towards Germany in the Autumn of 1944 that he picked up this phrase as spoken to the Allies by German POWs. It simply means 'You want to go to Berlin? You must be mad my friend!'. Thankfully, journeying to Berlin in 2013 is not such a daunting prospect. This was in fact our third visit to the city, so I feel that I know it quite well.
In town to see Ruts DC (a separate post I think), we planned to take advantage of the time before and after the gig to see some more of the sights and well... bars of Berlin. The history of Berlin has as you can imagine some very dark periods indeed and like most cities much of that history is best seen by foot and so this is how we set out from our hotel (much to the dismay of Gunta since the weather was pretty appalling).
The first site was Neue Synagoge, which quite frankly has about the darkest of the histories that I mentioned. You can read the story of this building here. There cannot be many buildings that have absorbed in to its bricks and mortar the sheer evil and senselessness of the period of the Third Reich. The fact that a posse of police stand guard over the building is evidence that even now this building is so much more that a place of religious devotion.
Nueue Synagoge, Berlin
Plaque detailing the buildings turbulent history
Into the administrative district and there is more of Berlin's dark past on show. On Wilhelmstrasse sits the imposing building that was the Reich Aviation Ministry. One of the few major buildings to emerge unscathed from the flame and smoke of Bomber Commands Battle of Berlin campaign of Winter '43-'44, this is a prime example of Nazi architecture. Diplomats of the day summoned to the Ministry were expected to feel intimidated by such a building. Even now, 70+ years after the events of the second world war, the place is still chilling. That the strategic decisions that resulted in such horrific periods of the air war in Britain (the Battle of Britain, the Blitz and the bombing of Coventry) were devised and agreed upon within these walls is horrible.
The former Reich Aviation Ministry
Still in the Government zone there is the site of the Fuhrer Bunker under the Chancellery. Nearby are what are proported to be the only remnants of the bunker that remain above ground.
Concrete sections that once protected the Fuhrer Bunker beneath the Chancellery
(with a section of the Berlin wall in the background)
The site of the bunker is marked, with a sign that includes a plan and a potted history of the events that took place there in April and May 1945 when the Red Army were entering Berlin. The site forms a car park that serves a new residential development (not sure that I would want to live there!)
Site of the Fuhrer Bunker, Berlin
A poignant reminder of the fact that the beliefs and attitudes held by the National Socialists in the 1930's still resonate with some can be seen just around the corner of the bunker.
On the bright side, our day was not just spent wallowing through the landmarks of former oppressive regimes.... there was the Ramones Museum. We had been here on our last visit, but since then the kids have grown and at least one new T-shirt was required.
If you find yourself in Berlin and happen to like the Ramones, it's a must. The staff are really welcoming and they sell local beer!
Display dedicated to London's first encounter with the creatures known as The Ramones
Our dear daughter was gutted to learn that two days before we were in the museum Gary Numan called in. Her favourite album is 'The Pleasure Principle', a choice that Dad is very comfortable with. I made a note that I would get her an autograph at some point soon!
Ramones Museum, Berlin
16th September 2013
As Da Brudders sang 'I Was Born To Die In Berlin'. I can think of far less desirable cities in which to peg out!