My first time in Berlin dates from May 2015. Until September 2021 it was my only time. I know it’s odd. The capital of Germany is a centre of history, culture, clubbing, gay culture. Berlin is a modern, quirky city with a reputation for being hip and trendy. I took time to look back on this first visit – with Frank – in 2015.
Berlin’s rich history, especially its 20th century history, is very present in the city. One can’t avoid World War II.
So a must-see museum is the Jewish Museum Berlin. The Jüdisches Museum Berlin was opened in 2001 and is the largest Jewish museum in Europe. On 3,500 square meter (almost 38,000 square feet) of floor space, the museum will present the history of Jews in Germany from the Middle Ages to the present day, with new focuses and new scenography.
It consists of three buildings, two of which are new additions specifically built for the museum by architect Daniel Libeskind. German-Jewish history is documented in the collections, the library and the archive, and is reflected in the museum’s program of events.
The museum is literally impressive. You can’t be unaffected. Not only because of its exhibition, but also helped by its architecture.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe at Cora-Berliner-Straße 1 is also a must-see landmark of Berlin.
The Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000-square-metre (200,000 sq ft) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or stelae, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.
The stelae are 2.38 metres (7 ft 10 in) long, 0.95 metres (3 ft 1 in) wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.7 metres (7.9 in to 15 ft 5.0 in).
They are organized in rows, 54 of them going north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew. An attached underground Place of Information (Ort der Information) holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.
Building began on 1 April 2003, and was finished on 15 December 2004. It was inaugurated on 10 May 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II in Europe, and opened to the public two days later.
Concrete and grey are popular elements of memorials, it seems. The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism or Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus verfolgten Homosexuellen was opened on 27 May 2008.
The memorial was designed by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. On the front side of the cuboid is a window, through which visitors can see a short film of two kissing men. The video is periodically changed to show kissing women.
Near the memorial is a signboard, which is written in German and English. There visitors can read over persecutions during Nazism and under Paragraph 175, the law during the 1950s and 1960s that outlawed homosexuality. It was reformed in 1969, attenuated in 1973 and finally voided in 1994.