Edit Blog Post
Published: October 17th 2010
First part is monument, second part--actual wall.
Berlin has captured our imaginations.
It's hard to summarize the trip here and so far we have been too busy to adequately update the blog. So, where to start? The wall was both one of our first visits and still most profound. Following a lunch we went on a bus tour through Berlin that ultimately took us to Berlin's divided past post war at a visit to the Berlin Wall Museum. Parts of the wall were still in place and were augmented with art to indicate the direction of the former wall dividing east and west Berlin. The area of the actual monument was formally "no man's land" and is now represented with descriptions of the wall--the watch towers, the attempted escapes and consequences for example. The museum itself sits on the west side of the wall. Part of the museum includes an overlook tower which provides an interesting glance at the east--for from the tower one can peer onto the east, observe no man's land from just a stone's throw yet a world away.
There is much to say from a reflection perspective which was jarred by a visit on our final day to the German Resistance Memorial
Centre. The facility is located in a building that was the place where Hitler presented his speech in 1933 on “Living space in the East.” The building later hosted the Commander in Chief of the Army before Hitler assumed that role. Essentially the building was home to where World War 2 was organized. The description of the resistance was fascinating—notably that there was no one arm of the resistance. Rather it was described as having three pillars: labor movement, the Army and churches. Our guide gave us each group’s perspective on their opposition but she highlighted the role APATHY played. Her observation: “Apathy made it easier for the Nazi’s to succeed.” Obviously propaganda was used aggressively to sway public opinion. (See poster from the time.)
Following our tour we talked at length with our three coordinators about history. The power history has on Germans and how immediately following the war; the generation of our guide’s grandparents did not easily or at all discuss the war. It was expected for people to carry on their lives normally. Speculation was discussed about why that was so---perhaps people did things during the war they were not proud of or supported or perhaps
Youth resistance leaders
Sophie Scholl is in the middle
they were not as vocal and public opposition voices as they could have been. Either way, it’s clear that Germany’s future is succinctly tied to its past. The first line of the new German constitution, “Human dignity is untouchable.” After our few days here and the intense history lesson that has accompanied it, those words are much more than words—they are the sentence that is at the core of Germany.
The trip had too many elements to list out and it’s now taken me a few days to get to them all so let’s go with some highlights:
Tour of the Reichstags Building, Home of the German Bundestag since 1999. The building underwent a complete makeover from the inside out. A little history lesson, in 1933, the Reichstag was set on fire and Hitler blamed the communists and subsequent activities led to his position in history. The building is a stunning contribution to Germany’s history. Art is a well placed throughout the building; in fact each of the allied partners was invited to contribute pieces of art. The American contribution is a running “reader board” (I’m sure there is a more artistically correct term)
in the entrance to the building that goes from floor to ceiling and has a series of speeches running constantly—again a nod to not forgetting the past. The facility has a lovely rooftop restaurant with a breathtaking view of the city where we dined for lunch with Bundestag staffers.
Immigration and Integration
As I’ve mentioned, one of the unique parts of the trip is the opportunity to meet one-on- one with people who do similar professional work. Here I was able to meet with Ms. Heike Marquardt the Integration Commissioner of Berlin-Lichtenberg (a major district in Berlin’s east). Ms. Marquardt has been the Integration Commissioner for over 20 years and grew up in Germany so also shared her first-hand experience living through Wende or “the change.” Berlin is a city with many immigrants and the approach to immigration here is largely dealt with through integration efforts. Prior to this trip integration had a two way meaning for me but here it is clearly focused on helping immigrants integrate into their surroundings. Ms. Marquardt has implemented several progressive schemes in order to facilitate community development including: Intercultural competency training for high level government staff including the Mayor of her region
from a different party, created a Commission of Integration and Intercultural Communication which ensures that every department has an indicator and measure of intercultural competence. She told a story of Turkish children facing an increase in obesity rates so the health department needed to come up with some aims to address which may need to be creative since within Turkish culture being plump is a sign of wealth and success. She also developed an innovative youth curriculum designed to encourage youngsters to talk about cultural differences in a healthy environment. She turned me on to the book she used titled, “Papa—Tell Me What is a Stranger”. I’m hoping my sister (literacy coach that she is will read this and find it so when I’m back I can review it and have a better picture how Ms. Marquardt was able to use a simple story to open children’s minds). In her twenty years, the list of her successes is long and rich. I hugged her at the end and invited her to Portland upon her retirement in two years to share some of the marvelous successes. Immigration and integration remain key issues for Berlin and for Germany as a whole.
Shop owners at work
Dressing Katya and Tamara
Berlin is known for its emerging designer scene. At my host dinner, I was turned on to the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. The neighborhood was severely hit during WW 2 but it bounced back after the wall fell. The day we went was wet and windy but still one was struck by the flower baskets on the many apartment buildings, the quaint shops with staff who acted more as hostesses than employees and darling toddlers decked out in their own waterproof fashionable garb everywhere. Many of the shops had sewing machines at the ready and new designs hanging elegantly. I liked the simplicity of their display—one of each item and color and then one would ask for specific sizes. Bria is going to be a happy girl after this shopping trip! The other thing that caught my eye is how fashionable Berliners can look while walking in the rain and wind—stylish tall boots, fashionable coats and hats. It rains much in Portland but it appears we have taken a utilitarian approach to our fashion. I did decide that playing on the 211info dodgeball team was great training for walking the streets in a crowded shopping district—we learned new strategies
Dinner at the Rodeo Club
Berlin is known for its night life. The club is situated in the historic postal building slated for a new development next spring.
and paid close attention to where one raises an umbrella to avoid near collisions while crossing busy intersections.
The day was too short—I’m ready to head back and keep soaking up the Berlin fashion scene.
So much more…perhaps the next plane ride will afford some writing time. Our down time is slim to none on the trip and mostly I’m soaking up as many experiences as I can. Tomorrow….Madrid.
Tot: 2.614s; Tpl: 0.098s; cc: 7; qc: 45; dbt: 0.0419s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb