Berlin is one of the world’s most well-known cities according to a variety of reasons – culture, political affairs and events, social issues, and, of course, history. Prior to visiting Berlin, I knew a few facts about it. Mostly, this city is associated with some of its most prominent historical events, such as being the core of the Nazi ideology popular there during the Second World War and the Berlin Wall. Both of these phenomena are some of the global symbols of harsh division in the society that led to people’s sufferings, loss of identity, and isolation.
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In his essay about Berlin, Emine Sevgi Özdamar describes it as a patchwork of various encounters and events all of which are somehow related to divisions and separations of different kinds – family members cut off from one another, friends thrown apart, people unable to get to certain places due to the political restrictions.
Özdamar depicts Berlin as filled with confused and frustrated residents facing the unknown future and scared of instability and rapid changes, the city that has spent many decades being torn apart by the Eastern and the Western political forces, which eventually resulted in the creation of the Berlin Wall and the establishment of Berlin as an ultimate representation of Germany itself – or two Germanies, two parts of the whole artificially transformed into enemies.
Özdamar’s Berlin is a city suffering the consequences of its aggression during the Second World War due to which the city has been taken over by the leaders of the other world’s large and powerful states and then divided. Berlin of the modern days is completely different. Though fragmented and diverse, this city has an indescribable feeling of togetherness and unity.
What I noticed about Berlin was its very serious attitude towards its past and its history. Compared to many other countries and cultures where the horrors and errors of the past are thoroughly covered up and quickly forgotten, Berlin (just like the rest of Germany) has made it a priority to appreciate and remember the history regardless of how embarrassing and horrifying its events were. The past is made available in multiple places around the city.
The memorials remind the visitors about the terrible events that happened in Germany in the past. There is a memorial of the Berlin Wall with the marks of the number of people killed by the Wall throughout the whole time it was in place; there is Sachsenhausen memorial that reminds people of a concentration camp that used to be located on the site, there is German-Russian museum that specifically focuses on the confrontation between Germany and the USSR during the WWII, there is anti-war Museum that depicts various subjects related to war and peace, there is a memorial to the book-burning of the 1930s when the Nazi destroyed all the literature that was seen as a threat to the nationalist regime and ideology.
All of these sites reflect various events of the past most of which are painful as memories, but this pain is what unites people in Berlin – the acceptance of their city’s history, the agreement to remember what Berlin used to be and appreciate what it is now – a city welcoming people from all around the world, celebrating diversity, and bearing the burden of the whole world’s reminder of what kind of madness may happen when intolerance and supremacy moods are at power.