Living with history: a Berlin city centre walk

Living with history: a Berlin city centre walk

Germans live with history, Berliners especially so.  The city is dense with memorials and museums, each of which documents or remembers an aspect of the country’s fractured past. In the previous post I wrote about three examples of the memorialization of the Holocaust in Berlin. In one short walk in the centre of the city the visitor will encounter several more. Continue reading “Living with history: a Berlin city centre walk”

Germany: Memories of a Nation

Germany: Memories of a Nation

This week Neil MacGregor’s superb series for BBC Radio 4, Germany: Memories of a Nation, reaches its conclusion – fittingly timed to coincide with Germany’s Schicksalstag, or Fateful Day, the ninth of November. In our lifetime it’s the opening of the Berlin wall on 9 November 1989 that we all remember. But, strangely, a succession of significant events in German history have occurred on 9 November. In 1938, in the Kristallnacht, synagogues and Jewish property were burned and destroyed on a large scale; in 1923 it was Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch, marking the early emergence of his Nazi Party on Germany’s political landscape; in Berlin on 9 November 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and two German republics were proclaimed – the social democratic one that was eventually known as the Weimar Republic, and Karl Liebknecht’s Free Socialist Republic; further back, in 1848, the year of revolutions, on 9 November Robert Blum, the democratic left liberal leader was executed by Austrian troops, leading to hopes for a united, democratic Germany being extinguished for another half century. Continue reading “Germany: Memories of a Nation”

Kathe Kollwitz’s ‘Grieving Parents’ at Vladslo: ‘Seed Corn Must Not Be Ground’

Kathe Kollwitz’s ‘Grieving Parents’ at Vladslo: ‘Seed Corn Must Not Be Ground’

Even though I’d been there on two previous occasions, there was one place to which I had to return before I finished my brief exploration of the memorials and cemeteries of the western front.  In Flanders, near to Dixmuide, north of Ypres, there is a German military cemetery where the son of the artist Kathe Kollwitz is buried.  It was there, in 1932, that Kollwitz’s memorial to her lost son was unveiled, consisting of the figures of herself and her husband grieving for the loss of their youngest child.  It is, I believe, one of the finest – and most deeply moving – artworks created in response to the devastation of the First World War. Continue reading “Kathe Kollwitz’s ‘Grieving Parents’ at Vladslo: ‘Seed Corn Must Not Be Ground’”

Kathe Kollwitz Pieta in Berlin

I wrote yesterday about my visit to Berlin ten years ago. One sight that left a lasting impression was  the Kathe Kollwitz Pieta in the Neue Wache,  a Greek temple-like building on the Unter den Linden. When the wall fell, this memorial to the victims of fascism was transformed into a new national memorial with this replica of Kathe Kollwitz’s  ‘Mother and Her Dead Son’. The inscription reads, ‘To the victims of war and tyranny’. It seems a fitting theme for a post on this day. Continue reading “Kathe Kollwitz Pieta in Berlin”