Nicholas R. Y11
Berlin is noticeably a city in a struggle with its own past. This is unsurprising, given its tumultuous recent history – from the Kaisers, through a brief period of fragile democracy, to Hitler and the Third Reich, and ultimately a split into East and West. However, what is interesting – and surprising, perhaps – is the effect that this has on the modern city.
A Berliner going about his or her daily business will likely pass one of the many memorials commemorating the horrors of the Nazi régime, walk past DDR- era apartment blocks, and step over the line of bricks set into the roads which marks the line of the Berlin wall. In short, History permeates every corner of Berlin; it is a city of echoes of the past. The ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’ (or ‘Holocaust Memorial’) is a good example of this. Situated near the Tiergarten, historic hunting ground of the Brandenburg Electors, and surrounded by modern high-rise buildings, this mass of 2,711 concrete stelae has an oppressive and inhuman feel. The deep shade and grey monotony is representative of many of Berlin’s monuments – they exalt despair on the part of the viewer. Much of the commemoration, such as the ‘Holocaust Memorial’ is a form of conceptual artwork based on architecture, experience and collective emotion. It is presentation of History with an agenda and often without much information – it attempts to tell a sort of emotional history, rather than an intellectual one, and it exudes a contemplative solemnity.