2008-09-23

Berlin – first visit, first impressions

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by Neil Godfrey

This is my first visit to Berlin. Love the historical reminders everywhere, never expected to still see old buildings with scars of battles from the 1940’s in the midst of the city among the new buildings that had replaced those more totally destroyed. The conference I am attending is at Humbolt University . Right outside between the main historic building and the library on the other side is the square where Jewish books were burned in 1933 – it’s difficult to grasp such an event in the midst of buildings and monuments famous as reminders of the highest and best of human culture. Nearby are other monums anents to the values of respect and tolerance — French style churches opposite German ordered by royalty of Enlightenment years wanting to assert a type of multiculturalism opposed to the idea of one national culture claiming superiority over others. Ditto for a Catholic church allowed to be built in Protestant region. And then in the midst of it all, reminders of how it all fell apart with the Night of the Broken Glass and the Book burning of 1933.

It’s a moving reminder, to me anyway, how peoples can change when they find themselves degraded and humiliated and desperate for a restoration of self´-respect.

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Neil Godfrey

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