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Shalom, Berlin: A Jewish Culture Guide

A trip to Berlin then is a solemn reflection of the past, and alternatively, an embrace of a very different present, and optimistic future.

By: Anthony Marcusa
Published: March 26th, 2013 in Culture » Society » News
Shalom, Berlin (clockwise): Stolpersteine, Jewish Museum, Downtown Berlin, Topography of Terrors, and Holocaust Memorial

And we’re off, to anywhere and everywhere, as we say ‘Shalom’ every week to different global travel destination. World cities, provincial towns, and even the most unassuming of suburbs are infused with Jewish history and culture, some of which is waiting to be discovered.

For the pious follower, the curious traveler, or the intrepid adventurer, we’ll unearth the best of what to do and where to go. Be it an emerging subculture, a historical landmark, or simply a triumph of art in any form, Jewish experiences are found around the world; and likely as well in your backyard.

It may be in the destination, the journey, or the company, but there is much to uncover and celebrate near and far, so hurry up and get going.

Shalom, Berlin

Downtown Berlin

It is the strange city possessive of both a vibrant culture and a dark history, with neither crossing paths. Such is Berlin, the capital city of Germany and a place that like other European metropolises is alive with art, music, food, and fashion. Unlike those cities, however, Berlin’s undeniable horrific past is part of the tourist experience, unforgettable and unavoidable.

A trip to Berlin then is a solemn reflection of the past, and alternatively, an embrace of a very different present, and optimistic future.

In 1999, after a decade of ideas and attempts, the Holocaust Memorial’s design was approved for Berlin. Known by its other name as well, The Memorial to Murdered Jews, designed by an American architect by the name of Peter Eisenman. The 19,000 square meter sloping site is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs of varying heights. Each monolith is unique in shape and size, as some rise only to a visitor’s ankles, while others loom overhead, creating a sense of instability and disorientation. Still, the memorial is hoped to become a practical part of the city, absorbed into everyday life and used while walking.


Holocaust Memorial

A year and a half to construct, the memorial was inaugurated on May 10, 2005. An information centre at the site offers names and stories of families and individuals who died during the Holocaust. The design and execution, however, was divisive, with some critics claiming the title is too vague, and the abstract layout too disrespectful.

While the Holocaust Memorial occupies a large swath of land, identifiable by its numerous stelae, Stolpersteine are similar observances of victims of the Holocaust. German for ‘stumbling block,’ these small memorials can be found throughout the city, commemorating individuals who experienced the Nazi terror. Stolpersteine have grown from Germany, as these monuments can also be found in Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Stolpersteine

According to its website, over 900,000 people visited the Topography of Terror Documentation Center in Berlin last year. It is another place of remembrance and reflection, a museum that occupies the buildings that were the predominant headquarters of the Gestapo and SS.

Related articles: Shalom, Berlin, Jewish Culture Guide, Travel, Tourism, Vacation, Germany, Holocaust, Museum, Art Gallery
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