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The New Berlin: Memory, Politics, Place

Karen E. Till
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    The New Berlin
    Book Description:

    Four locations frame The New Berlin: the Topography of Terror, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Jewish Museum, and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial and Museum. Through field notes, interviews, archival texts, personal narratives, public art, maps, images, and other sources, Karen Till describes how these places and spaces exemplify the contradictions and tensions of social memory and national identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9402-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. A Fence
    (pp. 1-4)

    In the center of Berlin is a wooden fence. It was erected to protect the 4.2-acre construction lot destined to become the central Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.Plastered on the most-trafficked corner of this fence is an ever-changing montage of posters, political graffiti, and enlarged newspaper articles that either support or oppose the memorial. This fence is a temporary structure in the landscape that marks long-standing contested social identities.

    Large posters put up by the citizen group responsible for the memorial announce, “Here is the place!”¹ On one, a familiar historical photo depicts a bedraggled elderly man wearing...

  5. 1 Hauntings, Memory, Place
    (pp. 5-24)

    The “New Berlin” represents the promise of Germany’s future.The unified national capital now includes sleek corporate buildings, a federal government district, new regional transportation and communication links, a renovated historic district, gentrified neighborhoods, urban parks and riverfronts, and a growing suburban ring. This cosmopolitan city of the twenty-first century is also an international cultural center, ranked above London in a recentCondé Nast Travelermagazine for its numerous symphonic orchestras, opera houses, choirs, galleries and museums, theaters, alternative art scene, and buildings designed by internationally famous architects. “With 3.5 million inhabitants, Berlin has as many theaters as Paris and more...

  6. A Metro Stop
    (pp. 25-29)

    I take the metro to the “world’s largest urban renewal site” in the center of Berlin and arrive at an underground stop partially sealed off behind temporary metal and wooden structures. Naked lightbulbs dangle overhead. For years, trucks and helmeted workers have been laboring underground to reconnect old metro networks and create new ones. They are also making a five-mile tunnel through which trains, cars, and shoppers will circulate under this emerging city center.

    I think of the stories thatWessis(West Germans) have told me about this place, when Potsdamer Platz was located in the GDR, and how they...

  7. 2 The New Berlin: From Kiez to Kosmos
    (pp. 31-58)

    In the early 1900s, Siegfried Kracauer bemoaned the loss of streets, buildings, and a city that seemed to vanish before his eyes.¹ His nostalgic descriptions of the old Berlin portrayed corner stores that had disappeared, vistas that no longer existed, and his unease about the new Berlin (and Germany) to come. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, not many people would feel Kracauer’s sense of sadness for the lost city, nor would they feel apprehensive about the future. While most would admit that the Berlin Republic is far from perfect, few would want the Cold War city back....

  8. A Flyer
    (pp. 59-61)

    One day, walking along Unter den Linden in the vicinity of the Museum Island, I picked up a flyer. It offered me what seemed to be an obvious choice: “How should the Lustgarten look?” it asked. “Like this?” (under which was a sketch for a city-approved redesign of a concrete garden). “Or would it be better like this?” (It showed a nineteenthcentury photograph of a lush and stately garden.) On the back of the flyer, I could sign my name and send in a petition to Berlin’s cultural affairs senator (at the time Peter Streider) to oppose the construction of...

  9. 3 The Gestapo Terrain: Landscape, Digging, Open Wounds
    (pp. 63-106)

    In the 1970s, a crumbling and bombed-out shell of what used to be a grand neoclassical structure stood in the middle of abandoned fields filled with rubble and overgrown bushes. Known as the Martin Gropius Bau, this nineteenth-century building was located between Anhalter Straße, Stresemannstraße, Niederkirchnerstraße, and Wilhelmstraße, an area at the margins of West Berlin. A narrow stretch of barren land lay north of this building, between the West and East Berlin Walls. On either side of that patrolled chemical desert stood remnants of once ornate buildings from prewar years, a couple of modern, boxy buildings from the 1920s,...

  10. Fieldnotes
    (pp. 107-119)

    1994: To get to the Topography of Terror, tourists take either the bus or a combination of underground metro (U-Bahn) and streetcar trains (S-Bahn) to the Anhalter Bahnhof, where the crumbling, classic, monumental facade of the historic station stands in front of a barren field on the southwest corner of Stresemannstraße. That lone facade is rather typical for this part of Kreuzberg. Every now and then you see a remnant from the past, a ruin in a lone field, standing quietly, out of time, in the middle of the city. Residents walking by or waiting for the bus don’t seem...

  11. 4 Berlin’s Ort der Täter: A Historic Site of Perpetrators
    (pp. 121-153)

    After 1990, the Topography of Terror was quite suddenly relocated from the real estate margins of a walled city to what has become a central location in the New Berlin. With its preunification success and postunifi cation location, the Topography has become an important tourist destination; in 2002 it was the tenth most visited “museum” in Berlin. According to academic director Reinhard Rürup, the Topography’s postunification centrality also resulted in new national roles, as a kind of central Holocaust museum for some politicians and as a service center for the existing decentralized national network of memorial museums. Although these specific...

  12. A Neighborhood
    (pp. 155-160)

    As I was walking to a doctor’s appointment, distracted and lost in thought, I saw out of the corner of my eye a street sign that had an image of a hopscotch game with bold colors one might expect to see in a children’s book. I kept walking, and a bit later I saw another sign, this time of a dog, again in a stylized form with inviting colors. As I walked toward the image of the German shepherd for a closer look, I noticed yet another sign across the street. On the other side of the image of the...

  13. 5 Aestheticizing the Rupture: Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial
    (pp. 161-188)

    The Holocaust is an unquestioned global symbol of the failure of the project of modernity. It stands for the “break in civilization” (Zivilizationsbruch), a universal moral symbol used both to justify international geopolitical acts and national imaginaries within distinct cultural signifying systems.² During the Cold War, the Holocaust represented what was at stake for the future: the “civilized” world (the West) must protect the good and innocent and fight against “evil” (regimes that perpetrate crimes against humanity) to prevent such a rupture from happening again.³ In the Federal Republic of Germany, “the land of the perpetrators,” the Holocaust signifies not...

  14. A Newspaper Article
    (pp. 189-191)

    Of the hundreds of articles I read about the Holocaust Memorial debates, the most memorable was Rudolf Kraft’s 1992 depiction inDie Zeitof a memory landscape in the (future) new capital city. Kraft begins his article, “In trennendem Gedenken,” with a guided tour:

    It is the year 2001. The German capital city has in the interim also become the seat of the government. Our tourist bus turns from the Street of Tolerance, formerly Wilhelmstraße and later Grotewohlstraße, onto Leipziger Straße, squeezes through the narrow passage of Potsdamer Platz under the Mercedes Benz Star that sits atop a massive skyscraper,...

  15. 6 Memory in the New Berlin
    (pp. 193-228)

    The New Berlin, described by city marketers as a large architectural exhibition, is a city (again) reborn. Berlin is the chronotope, or space-time formation, through which contemporary dreams of national futures are imagined. Celebrated by its engineering feats, architectural designs, and youthful energy, the city, as Germany’s reunified capital, represents a new millennium in a new Europe and is advertised to be cosmopolitan, world class, and open. As one virtual tourist guide proclaimed, “When the wall came crashing down in the late 1990s, even Berliners would never have guessed that a city plagued by war could become a global destination...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 229-270)
  17. Index
    (pp. 271-280)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)