Had the Berlin Wall survived until next year 2011, I would have shared a 50th anniversary with it. It was built in 1961 the year I was born and is the iconic symbol of the Cold War and the divide between East and West. As it happens the Wall fell in 1989 (another momentous year for me again a whole other blog!) We walked along the remnants of it today on Niederkirchnerstraße on our way to a remarkable museum “The Topography of Terror” It’s an outdoor museum located in Niederkirchnerstraße formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regimefrom 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and theSS, the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era. The second world war had finished 16 years before I was born and by the time I became even vaguely aware that it had happened well over 2o years had past. I became aware of the second world war via movies and comics, not great sources of information. My one direct connection with that war was our good neighbour Johnny Mullen, a veteran of the evacuation form Dunkirk. Johnny looked and carried himself like a soldier. Straight back with the newspaper tucked under his arm like a swagger stick and his boots polished to a mirror shine. He strode up the road to “the Island” brickyard where he worked like he was on parade and at a quick march. But for me the second world war was dim and distant history the stuff of celluloid and black and white Commando Comics. The visit today to the “Topography of Terror” museum made it very real for me. The exhibition of photographs and documents that charts the rise of the Nazis Party and more particularly the SS and Gestapo was chilling made all the more powerful by the fact that we were standing on the site where they organised the systematic extermination of the Jews and others. It is remarkable to be in a city were both the second world war and the cold war still have such an impact. Flicking through the glossy books that make a pictorial comparison between Berlin now and how it was only 20, 50, 70 years ago and see the changes brought about in that relatively short period of time is remarkable. If any people on earth could talk with more authority about change it has to be the Berliners.
Two photos i took today among many were of a photo in the Topography of Terror Museum of a man refusing to join in the salute to Hitler on a visit to a ship yard before the war. The Second photo is whats left of the 50 year old Berlin Wall