Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reichstag and Memorials

After learning that we needed a reservation to see the Reichstag, Curtis went right home and tried to get us one. Since they were only here for three days, he just said we were available and we waited. They gave us an 8:30am time slot which nearly killed us, to get 8 of us up, dressed, out the door and across town using only one bathroom and public transit.
Here it is! The Reichstag, seat of the German parliament. As it turned out, it was a hollow victory to get in -- this week they had closed the kuppel, or dome for window cleaning so we couldn't go up inside it. WHAT?! Bummer. Nevertheless, we got to see it up close and check out the view of the city.
It's another building that houses huge amounts of history in one set of four walls. It was built grudgingly by the king for the parliament, but he placed it outside the city to show them who was [still] in charge.
In 1933 it was set on fire and this was blamed on the communist party by the new chancellor of Germany, one Adolf Hitler. He used it to bring the Nazi party into power. It was used as a backdrop for famous speeches and concerts. It was remodeled during the cold war and was a museum on 'questions of German history'. It was wrapped by Christos. It was the site of the official German reunification ceremony in 1990. And because it was never used during the third reich, it was decided to use it again as the seat of the parliament when the reunified government came back to Berlin.
The roof of that Deutsche Bank building by Frank Gehry. Amazing that you have no idea all that is up there from the street!
Now the Reichstag is the second most-visited sight in Berlin (probably after the Brandenburg Gate). We'll try and make it back again before we leave, because the kids love to run up and down the ramps and I love to read the history around the base of the dome.
Rob had to jaunt off to teach his class, but we were right in the vicinity, so I talked Curtis into visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
It is 4.7 acres of these slabs and paths, and I think it's powerful, though there has been controversy at all points since the conception of the project. You begin by walking around or on the slabs which are only inches off the ground.
Soon you find yourself deep in these small paths, with slabs reaching over your head in all directions. Other people are flitting by you like ghostly apparitions. And if you ever needed to understand the panic of the holocaust, try taking a preschooler in here and letting him go. This is like losing a child in a Saturday night Wal-Mart times 100. They round a corner and they are gone.
I understand the arguments against it, but I'm glad the memorial is here. I think it helps a new generation to get in a frame of mind to understand the holocaust and visit the underground info center.
These are crosses to memorialize the people who died while trying to cross the wall. One of them died just months before the wall came down in November of 1989.

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