So it’s 9:30 on the second day in Berlin, and one half of me, the bottom half because it’s the half with my feet on, wants to go to bed, but the other half of me is half typing this and half getting ready to go out to dinner – so quarter… never mind.
I’ve done so much today, seeing a lot of the war related memorials, with a little help from my impromptu three-star guide from South Germany, who I will call Elephant, because he’s nothing short of obsessed with them.
We actually started out at a museum that I suggested, having pulled it from the travel guides suggested ‘free’ section (Yes, I am the girl who gets about three travel guides on her kindle ‘just to get an idea’.) The Otto Weitd museum, basically a very small museum down some beautifully graffiti full alcoves:
Dedicated to the work of Otto, a blind brush maker who used his business during the Nazi regime to not only employ, but hide and send food parcels out to persecuted Jews. A small but very interesting museum actually set in the old offices and factory that Otto and his workers used.
Elephant’s guidance came in great help here as he could translate all the first hand documents for me. The most fascinating thing we found was a postcard from one of Otto’s old employees who’d been taken to Auschwitz and then transferred again, on her way to the second concentration camp she wrote a letter to Otto and flung it out her train carriage window, with a plea for the finder to post it. Amazingly the letter reached Otto and is now part of the exhibit.
When we left Elephant also pointed out to me something I would have never noticed otherwise, little gold plaques embedded in the pavement next to certain properties, little individual ones for each of the Jews who lost their homes, and a reminder of the fate they met. It’s one of those things that once you know they’re there you see them dotted everywhere – and they really are everywhere, which’s pretty sobering.
I was then directed to a German supermarket to buy a drink where I was baffled by the fact they appeared to sell lemon juice. Turns out they just display them together and sell lemon juice in … glass drinking bottles?
Strange Germanisms aside – we then headed off for the Topography of Terror, a German Memorial Dedicated to keeping the memory of the Terror in the second world war and its aftermath alive. If you ever frequent it yourself I advise taking a guide book as, being a British child and having done GCSE History, I’m very familiar with the actual war, but not so much with the solution so some of the information about East and West Germany was lost on me as more knowledge than I have was assumed.
However, I did have a particular interest in the section dedicated to Jews and other concentration camp survivors claiming compensation. I knew they must have claimed compensation, but one camp and its workers for 3,000 Euros each? For years of forced labour, I never realized it was so little. And I was really alarmed by how the Gays were treated, many of them didn’t get any compensation as being a homosexual was still considered to be unnatural – so apparently the war crimes against them didn’t count – or something? Many had to claim political or an alternative form of persecution to get any compensation and many were punished for trying to claim undue reparations.
On our way over to the Museum for The German Resistance we passed the Memorial to the Holocaust. It was a stunning sight. Or at least it might have been, a memorial loses something when there are people sitting on it drinking and there are kids running in between the blocks screaming.
We passed the concert hall for the Philharmonic too, and using his superior language skills Elephant found you can get tickets to performances for as little as 13 Euros, so that may be on the table for later this week.
We also went through the Sony tower, which is a pretty impressive structure – I insisted we ride up in the glass lift three times just to enjoy the view, and much to the annoyance of the local businessmen. We were also pleased to find the Museum of Film, the last stop for the day, before passing on to our penultimate stop.
Finally pulling ourselves away from distractions we reached the Museum of Resistance, another free museum. I truly would have paid for it through, it was quite big, with rooms dedicated to each big moment for the resistance to the Nazi regime. It wasn’t just that though, there were rooms dedicated to the smaller unsung heroes who refused to adopt Nazi policies and punished:
And there was a fair amount on artist’s and intellectual’s resistance as well. It was so absorbing sitting and sketching some of the exhibit. I spent ages pouring over the information on the Swing movement, the White Rose, and other ways the German Youth resisted. I was particularly touched by a girl’s inks of teens in swing clothes, as she was sentenced for her art work:
Elephant thought to show me the very shiny German mall, claiming a culture overload for the day, so we didn’t actually go to the last museum (I wasn’t about to argue I was suffering from the same affliction), we simply went to see this instead;
Okay, we didn’t specifically look for the Giraffe, it was outside the shiny new Berlin Mall. But I just had to show you that picture.
If I had the money or the suitcase space, I may have been more inclined to excitement about a hopping trip, as it was a browsed fridge magnets and got told off by a baker who thought I was trying to steal his recipes by taking a photo of one of his traditional German cakes…
Then we took another visit to the supermarket for some German Beer, and sat on the bank of the canal watching the sun set over the Reichstag. It was truly spectacular.
Dragging our feet back to the hostel, this is now my hour of foot rest before we set out once more in search of food!
Check back tomorrow for more on Berlin!