Today was a typically hazy day, in which it is impossible to see more than a kilometre in every direction. I had the day off from playing in the U-Bahn, so I decided to make use of the beautiful, ‘diesig’ day to have a look round.
Those of you who haven’t seen Der Untergang are really missing out. It is a great film, almost free from the German government’s constant attempts to rewrite their history and produce official versions of what has occurred. The movie is concerned with the final few days of the Third Reich, and takes place almost entirely in Hitler’s Chancellery Bunker in Berlin. If you have seen any clip of an angry Hitler with subtitles that don’t match what he’s actually saying, this is the movie that clip came from.
I searched the location of the Führerbunker on Google Maps and, somewhat ironically, it is situated across the street from the Holocaust Memorial.
It’s got a very interesting museum, it’s all intact, and you can even see Hitler’s body inside the museum below.
That was all a lie. This is what it looks like today:
If I were a twelve-year-old white girl, it would look like this today:
But no, Berlin is actually that gloomy looking.
What used to the the Führerbunker has been filled in entirely since 1985-1989, at which point the DDR poured cement and mud into the entire structure. The place where Hitler committed suicide and where his body was (probably) burned is now a large apartment complex with children’s playgrounds everywhere. This odd complex in the very centre of Berlin is, perhaps by design, entirely unassuming and I have walked past it multiple times without thinking anything of it. But the moment I realised it was here, I realised it was impossible not to have recognised it from the beginning of Er ist wieder da, a great comedy from a few years ago in which Hitler suddenly wakes up in 2011 and begins rebuilding.
I was unimpressed when I came upon the site. And I was annoyed at myself for being unimpressed. I am notorious for never feeling a shock of being somewhere else, and of being unable to have that moment in which I think, “Wow, I’m actually here”. So I kept shuffling through the snow, hoping I’d have some sort of shock. But I couldn’t see any remains.
I saw the back of a large sign and hoped it might indicate where some of the buildings were. There was a map of where the complex had once lain and some pictures of it after the fall of Berlin.
That was the moment my stomach sank to the ground and I experienced a strange gut reaction. The streets are all the same as they always have been. The photos of the destruction show exactly where you are standing, what buildings were destroyed, where Hitler’s body probably was last, and how the complex under your feet was organised. That was what finally gave me the shock, seeing the difference between then and now through photographs and maps. It gives you a queasy feeling, that there’s something hidden away, cached below an entirely unprepossessing façade, which surely renders it more impressive and more gut-wrenching. The German government and German historians and German activists rail constantly that Germany must never forget what their country did, but they’ve hidden the place in which it all came to an end.
And there’s almost certainly a sort of justice in that, in that, because there is no point you can visit and think, “Oh, this is where it all came to an end,” it instils one with a feeling it’s continuing, or someone evil is still on the loose. Andrew Graham-Dixon, peradventure the greatest art presenter I have ever seen, showed in his Art of Germany a warehouse on the outskirts full of statues and pieces from the dark parts of history here, pieces that are too dangerous and evil simply by virtue of their provenance to be shown publicly. This is one of those places, in which the feeling of evil is too great for the world to experience.
On much lighter notes, sort of, I also visited the Altes Museum, which houses Greco-Roman and Etruscan artefacts. On the way, I snapped a shot of the Klosterkirche, a ruin from the Second World War which has been left in its ruined state.
Moderately artsy photo of the day.
There are only seven or eight churches in the area which are still being rebuilt from the War.
Next to this ruin is the Chernobyl Memorial, a grand affair, less than a metre tall and twenty centimetres wide, made of concrete, naturally, with some sort of stone that doesn’t match. Communist Germany.
I also snapped a relatively decent photo of the Berliner Dom:
For some reason, it gives me that 1970s vibe. It’s hard to explain, but it looks like one of those poorly printed history books in colour or travel books in colour from the era, when the colours bled everywhere and everything was kind of dirty.
A few more snaps before Altes Museum. Karl Liebknecht, leader of the Social Democratic Party, then the Spartacus League, then the Communist Party of Germany, was assassinated on 15 January 1919 after the Spartacist Revolution, in which a short-lived communist revolution was somewhat reluctantly joined by him and Rosa Luxemburg. Both were killed after arrest by the Freikorps, a militia group which attracted right-wing radicals.
On 9 November 1918, two hours after the declaration of the Republic a few blocks away, he announced the Free Socialist Republic. The event is immortalised here, a few steps from the balcony from which he announced it (not where he was assassinated, sorry my fault):
So finally, the Altes Museum. It’s another gigantic museum with lots of signs, and this time I decided to do it all in English for the sake of my sanity. Some stunning pieces are in there, including glassware and blackware from multiple periods, and it’s difficult to wrap one’s head round the fact that these pieces come from 500 BC, which might as well have been an eternity ago. Before I show you the only pics I took, let me tell you there is a gigantic collection of coins from the ancient and classical Mediterranean, and a very fun room with objects a bit inappropriate for my site but which are really quite hilarious.
It astounds me just how realistic and soft marble can look, even though it is, obviously, stone. That skill will always amaze me.
I have always refused to use Instagram, but I figured it’s just easier this way since it’ll store my photos instead of having them all on my phone, plus it’s convenient to use them on this blog. Sorry, I tried to resist the twelve-year-old white girl on study abroad in me, but it had to be done. I might actually invest in a real camera at some point, since there are just so many good angles I can’t exploit with a Samsung phone.