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The Brandenburg Gate is the most iconic landmark in Berlin, and has lived through the many turbulent chapters of Germany’s history. It was built in 1788 as an entrance to the Prussian Palace and a symbol of peace after many years of war during the reign of Frederick the Great. Centuries later, it was used in Nazi propaganda and served as a backdrop for a parade celebrating Hilter’s rise to power. During the Cold War, it became a symbol of a divided Germany, as it was precariously placed near the border of East and West Berlin. The area surrounding it became a fenced-off wasteland. Finally, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the gate was renovated and once again became a symbol of peace and reunification.
The Victory Column is a monument located at an intersection in the heart of Berlin’s largest park, Tiergarten, and was constructed to celebrate Germany's victory over France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. It survived WWII mainly because the Nazis moved it from its original location in front of the Reichstag Building, which was severely damaged during air raids.
This image was taken at Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, just south of the Brandenburg Gate. The space was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and inaugurated in 2005. It serves as a memorial to all of the Jews murdered during the Holocaust. Its 4.7 acres are covered in 2,711 gray concrete slabs which are equal in dimension, but vary in height. The slabs are have been placed on sloping, uneven ground, so these very solid forms dip in a variety of directions, creating an organic, almost wave-like effect. Visitors can enter this maze of slabs from all four sides of the memorial. Walking around the space is disorienting — I’m sure it's exactly what the architect intended. One interpretation is that the slabs are supposed to represent an orderly system that has lost touch with reality and reason.
We also visited the Jewish Museum, and were very impressed with the elegant way that space, light, and sound were used to describe the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust. The building is comprised of two sections — an old baroque building and a new, incredibly modern building designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind. You begin in the old building and descend down a dark hallway into the modern one.
Once underground, you find yourself in a series of long hallways that feel slightly askew. At one point, you open an enormous steel door and walk into a small, dark room which you quickly realize is a cell with an odd triangular shape and a sky-high ceiling. There’s a single small window which allows a beam of light to pour in. The shape of the space makes your voice and the sound of your footsteps echo across the walls.
You exit the main building and enter The Garden of Exile, a series of tall concrete columns topped with sprigs of olive trees. As you wander through the rows, you feel trapped and disoriented by the space. When you look up, you feel hope by seeing the familiar shapes of trees above you, but you can’t find your way out of the maze. I feel like these sensory experiences express so much more than words ever could. It’s a beautiful way to share a sliver of the emotional experiences of these people and commemorate their lives.