Monday, 29 June 2015
I can't decide if this is a cleverly original memorial, or is in rather bad taste.
It's located in the grounds of a former mental hospital in Buch, north Berlin. It is a memorial to the victims of operation T4, which the Nazis created to get rid of the mentally ill, physically disabled, sexually degenerate, and racially 'undesirable' members of German society. This sickening program took place with the coercion of doctors and nurses to identify and either forcibly sterilize or euthanize their victims.
Operation T4 went on to use vans with the interior connected to the exhaust in order to 'gas' the unfortunates: a pre-cursor to the gas chambers and the holocaust.
The hospital in Buch where this memorial now stands was a transit camp for Berlin patients who would be moved on to euthanasia centres elsewhere. As you can see, it is a giant stone pillow with the names of individuals, presumably children, who would be suffocated by it.
It is all very well to not play down or forget the horrors of the Nazi regime, but perhaps the design of this memorial is a bit disconcerting for the current patients at Berlin-Buch hospital who might wonder if they are going to make it through the night.
Saturday, 13 June 2015
The re-building of the Berliner Stadtschloss is coming along marvellously. Usually you only get to judge progress from the building work and cranes towering up over the tops of the hoardings enclosing the site, but over the weekend the building site was open to anyone to come in and see how things were going. And the answer is 'pretty good'. If only the nearby Berliner Staatsoper (State Opera) on Unter den Linden was doing so well. Or dare I mention it, the ill-fated Berlin Brandenburg Airport.
The new Schloss does still look a bit like the shell for a multi-storey car-park, but the dome has just this week had its topping-off ceremony and once they get around to adding the baroque plaster twiddly-bits it should look quite impressive.
It is in fact a bit down-beat to see the concrete skeleton of any building before it has had its façade applied, like seeing a drag queen before the make-up is slapped on, or a sponge wedding cake before the icing, frosting, and fluting. Better I think if the building consortium hadn't shed light on the magic, and kept the Stadtschloss under wraps - Christo and Jean-Claude style - until it was ready for its appearance on the Berlin stage: Taaa-daa! Of course this kind of architecture is nothing new; if you've visited the Colosseum in Rome you will have seen how the Romans were adept back then at building in brick and concrete then adding the Corinthian columns and pilasters as a final adornment.
The open day featured all the usual German accoutrements to entertain the curious: Bratwurst, Bier, and a military brass band. But also live music, songs and food from other cultures, anticipating the palace's future role as a forum for dialogue between the cultures of the world and setting for the World Art and Culture museums from Dahlem.
The open day featured a lot of fund-raising from the visitors to keep the project going. And why not? Maybe the Berlin Brandenburg Airport could have been funded this way instead of throwing public money into the bottomless coffers of greedy speculators and out and out crooks? I did think of setting up a stall and mischievously organising a petition to have the DDR-era Palast der Republik rebuilt instead. Or, God forbid, a completely new 21st Century building as befits a modern World Capital instead of a Disney-esque Höhenzollern Kaiserland theme park.
A fun day out for all the family then, though perhaps a cause of puzzlement for foreign tourists. I mean, you came to Berlin and you're looking around a building site? What's that all about then? Anyway, the multi-culti musical entertainment and the fast-food was great, and it was entertaining as a Brit that the German military band played 'Colonel Bogey' (my inner voice singing 'Hitler, has only got one ball ...) followed by 'Land of Hope and Glory'. It felt just like Last Night of the Proms; if we'd have stayed longer they might have broken out into 'Jerusalem'!
Here are some of my snaps of the Stadtschloss Baustelle. It will be interesting to return when the palace is completed and do a before-and-after comparison.
Thursday, 11 June 2015
Museum Island is a popular place to wander around any time of day, but it is especially precious after the sun has just set, the tourists have left, and the loving couples come out. Usually there is at least one busker left to fill the evening with music, and the bars and restaurants of Mitte are only a short walk away.