Sunday, November 20, 2005

Berlin - an afternoon in the new "West"

When I left the meeting with Oliver, I asked for advice on what not to miss in Berlin. He directed me to go to the new West Berlin area, beginning with the Brandenburg Gates (first picture). This was absolutely amazing - to know that these gates stood to separate East and West Berlin for so many years. When they were originally built, they were simply part of the succession of monuments flowing through Tiergarten Mitte.

What I didn't realize is that actually most of the major nomuments and public buildings were all in this area. One of the major buildings was the Reichstag (second picture), a building constructed in the early 20th century to house governmental meetings and officials. This is a very historic building with a huge dome over it.

Newly constructed beside the Reichstag is an entirely new governmental complex - sleek, new, but still monumental in scale (third picture). This area is composed of major historic buildings and everything new. West Berlin was so devastated by the period of separation that all the lesser buildings were torn down to make room for the new.

One of the most chilling of scenes is the fourth picture above. This is a view from a series of granite blocks that represents the over 3 million Jews who died at the hands of Nazi persecution during WWII. The blocks literally form canyons of despair and confusion that serves to remind us of what a devastating period of human history this was. And, before we point the finger too quickly at the German people or its government, we have to remember how much the U.S.A. knew of what was happening before unwillingly entering the war. Beyond the blocks rises the new city of West Berlin. Everything in this new area is gleaming and beautiful. It is full of trendy stores, entertainment and everything you could possibly want in a now modern and progressive city.

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