Archive for the ‘Tête-à-Tête’ Category

Claire Waldoff – Quintessential Ur-Berliner

Monday, November 13th, 2017

 

Often referred to as an Ur-Berliner (the epitome of a Berliner), Claire Waldoff (1884-1957) was one of Berlin’s most popular cabaret singers and entertainers during the 1910s and 1920s. She sang in the straight-down-to-the-point Berlinisch – the Berlin dialect – known to combine heart with unabashed bluntness. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlinisch-dialect-of-the-berliner In reality, Claire Waldoff wasn’t from Berlin at all. She arrived in the city when she was in her early twenties and took to Berlin like a fly to flypaper. You might say, she became a Berliner to the core.

Claire Waldoff’s Rise and Fall

Born as Clara Wortmann in Gelsenkirchen, a town in the northern part of Germany’s industrial area, Waldoff was the eleventh child in a family of 16. She wanted to become a physician, but the family didn’t have the money to pay for her studies. As an alternative, she she chose singing and acting. In 1906, Claire Waldoff visited Berlin and was immediately captivated by the city’s cosmopoletan style and temperament. Initially, she played in some minor roles until she landed a singing engagement at a nightclub, called Roland von Berlin. That was in 1908. In a dress bought on credit, flaming red hair, gravelly voice, one eyebrow mockingly raised, cursing and smoking cigarettes on stage, she became a star overnight. Her friends included many prominent artists, such as Marlene Dietrich, with whom she performed on stage.

Audiences loved Claire Waldoff. She usually wore a simple blouse along with a tie and slacks. One of her famous songs was Ach Jott, Wat Sind Die Maenner Dumm (Oh, God, How Stupid Men Are). For a first recording on Gramophone, click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3keVMxe71U

After coming to power in 1933, the Nazis quickly banned Claire Waldoff’s appearances because many of her composers and lyricists were Jewish. Besides, they considered her songs too suggestive. It was also no secret that Waldoff lived and operated a gay-lesbian-salon with her long-time lesbian partner, Olga “Olly” von Roeder. Following World War II, Claire Waldoff lost all of her savings in the West German monetary reform of 1948 and was forced to live on a meager pension, provided by the City of Berlin.

Claire Waldoff Remembered

A monument, created by Reinhard Jacob, and located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast immortalizes Berlin’s sassy cabaret singer. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/friedrichstadt-palast-berlins-top-revue-theater/

Claire Waldoff monument, located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Claire Waldoff monument, located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Friedrichstadt-Palast – Berlin’s Top Revue Theater

Monday, November 6th, 2017

 

With 700,000 visitors annually and a seating capacity of 1,895, the Friedrichstadt-Palast is by far the most popular theater in Berlin and the largest and most modern show place in Europe. Located in Berlin’s central district of Mitte, it is also the last large historic landmark structure dating back to former East Germany. Today, major galas and events take place here, whiche include the Berlinale and the German Film Awards. Celebrities, such as Mikhail Gorbatchev, George Bush Sr., Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel, have attended events in its walls. Marlene Dietrich, Udo Juergens and Liza Minnelli have performed on its stage.

The Checkered Past of the Friedrichstadt-Palast

The theater’s history goes back to the 19th century. In 1867, it opened as a market hall near Schiffbauerdamm, approximately 650 feet from its current site. For economic reasons, the venue closed again seven months later. Over the next fifty years, the building served as a food depot, a replenishment center for the Prussian Army, a circus arena and a nightclub. In 1919, following World War I, it re-opened as Grosses Schauspielhaus under the direction of theater genius Max Reinhardt. Revues by Erik Charell set the pace for the Roaring Twenties.  During the Nazi era, the theater was renamed Theater des Volkes (Theater of the People). In 1945, it was seriously damaged during repeated air attacks and eventually abandoned and taken over by the City of Berlin. In 1949, the city renamed the theater Friedrichstadtpalast (no hyphen). Due to structural problems, the building had to be closed in 1980 and demolished the following year.

Today’s Friedrichstadt-Palast

The current Friedrichstadt-Palast was rebuilt at Friedrichstrasse 107 and opened in 1984, five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-day-the-berlin-wall-fell/ Since then, it has not only retained but broadened its reputation as a revue theatre that offers some of the most spectacular shows and technical marvels in reunified Germany.

Vestibule of the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. walled-in-berlin.com

Vestibule of the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. walled-in-berlin.com

Venues at the Friedrichstadt-Palast

The Friedrichstadt-Palast offers diverse programming from children’s shows and guest performances to festival galas. It specializes in complex shows that incorporate cutting-edge lighting and stage technology, over a hundred performers, and stylized acrobatic numbers. A ballet company, a show-band and a children and youth ensemble are in permanent residence. The ballet company includes 60 dancers from 26 countries worldwide. Its show band includes 16 musicians. And the children and youth ensemble consists of 250 Berlin children ranging from ages 6 to 16.

Current Show at the Friedrichstadt-Palast – THE ONE

The shows at the Friedrichstadt-Palast tend to be suitable for international audiences. Currently playing is THE ONE, a Las Vegas-style revue featuring song, dance, special effects and acrobatics. The show does not have an explicit narrative. Instead, it leads the viewer on a dreamlike journey through time in search of the person that means everything to us – THE ONE.

THE ONE grand show playing at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. walled-in-berlin.com

THE ONE grand show currently playing at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. walled-in-berlin.com

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Hagen Koch marked off the Berlin Wall

Monday, October 30th, 2017

 

Hagen Koch, just 21 years old at the time, was a little known, yet important, player in the construction of the Berlin Wall. It was Koch who researched the exact location of the boundary between East and West Berlin. And it was Koch who painted the white line that would mark off the border. Hagen Koch walked 30 miles in a single day in August of 1961 of, hunched over to paint that line. Once finished, construction of the Berlin Wall began.

 

Hagen Koch researched the exact location of the boundary between East and West Berlin and then, in August of 1961, painted the white line that demarcated that border. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Hagen Koch researched the exact location of the boundary between East and West Berlin and then, in August of 1961, painted the white line that demarcated that border. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

How did the Berlin Wall come about?

Since earliest times, man built walls to keep others out. However, the Berlin Wall was a rare example of a wall built to keep people in. It was constructed to keep East Germans from defecting to the West because between 1949 (the creation of East Germany) and 1961 (the construction of the Berlin Wall) over two million East Germans had done just that. They had left East Germany and fled to the West. For years, East German leader Walter Ulbricht http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/image-challenged-walter-ulbricht/ pleaded with the Soviets to let him close the border to put an end to the workforce drain. By August 1961, the Soviets agreed, and Ulbricht proceeded with his plan.

Berliners awoke on 13 August 1961, a beautiful Sunday morning, to find Operation Rose (Ulbricht’s code name for the construction of the Berlin Wall) in full swing. By the wee hours of the morning, most of the border between East and West Berlin was already primitively closed. Barbed wire and concrete posts severed streets. The underground and elevated trains terminated at the border. Armed soldiers stood guard. Within a few days, a block-and-mortar wall replaced the barbed wire fence. The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years. It split the city and separated families and friends. It became a symbol of the Cold War.

Hagen Koch’s Rise to Fame

Having graduated a technical draftsman, Hagen Koch joined the Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit (Ministry for State Security) – better known as Stasi – as a cartographer. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-stasi-and-how-it-worked/ Upon joining the Stasi in 1960, Koch made a speech, which quickly propelled him up the Stasi ladder. In his speech, Hagen Koch denounced “American imperialism” and emphasized his pride in East German socialism. Upon hearing Koch talk, Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi, remarked, “He’s the man of our future.” http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/erich-mielke-master-of-fear/ Soon thereafter, Hagen Koch was promoted to Head of Cartography.

Hagen Koch’s transformation

One hundred percent committed to East German-style socialism at the beginning of his career, Hagen Koch’s conviction began to fade when the Stasi insisted that he divorce his wife on account of her ties to the West. His commitment to East German ideology took a further plunge when Hagen’s father lost his job for protesting the expulsion of his Dutch father, Hagen’s grandfather.

After having fulfilled his service requirement, Koch left the Stasi in 1985. Four years later, the Berlin Wall fell. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-day-the-berlin-wall-fell/ Thereafter, Hagen Koch began to talk openly about his part in creating the hated barrier. He had had a change of heart in the preceding years relative to East Germany’s political system. In 1990, Koch became Cultural Heritage Officer at East Germany’s Institute for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and was appointed Minister of Culture, responsible for the demolition of the Wall. After German reunification the same year, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/germanys-unite-through-treuhandanstalt/ Hagen Koch began creating an extensive Wall Archive at his home and welcomed visitors to view his collection. Visiting dignitaries included the Queen of Sweden and the artist Christo. Over time, Koch turned self-styled chronicler of the Wall and became a sought-after speaker. As part of a Historical Witness Project, the Wende Museum in Los Angeles, California, invited Hagen Koch to tell his story. Click http://www.wendemuseum.org/participate/historical-witness-hagen-koch to watch the interview.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

Stasi Museum in former Stasi HQ

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

 

The Stasi Museum in Berlin, Germany, is located in House 1 of the vast headquarter complex of the former East German Ministerium fuer STAatsSIcherheit (Ministry for State Security), generally known as the “STASI.” Parts of the award-winning movie, The Lives of Others, were filmed here. The 1.1 million square-foot complex consists of 33 buildings, which housed offices, a travel agency, a hair salon, shops, a supermarket a movie theater and several cafeterias during Stasi days.

 

Model of Stasi Headquarters on exhibit the Stasi Museum. House 1 is located near the center of the photo. A covered canopy shelters the entrance from view. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Model of Stasi Headquarters on exhibit at the Stasi Museum. House 1 is located near the center of the photo. A covered canopy shelters the entrance from view. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

History of House 1 inside the Stasi headquarters

The Stasi headquarter complex was erected in 1960-1961. House 1 became the heart of the Stasi and housed the offices of Erich Mielke, Minister for State Security from 1957 to 1989. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/erich-mielke-master-of-fear/ At the height of Mielke’s power in the early 1980s, the Stasi employed nearly 100,000 secret agents and many more informers. There was nearly one informer for every 6.5 citizens.

The Stasi Museum – a Memorial Site

On 15 January 1990, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, demonstrators occupied the Stasi headquarters. After extensive renovations, House 1 reopened in 2012. The first and third floors of the building host a series of exhibitions about survivors of the East German regime, methods of surveillance and propaganda. The second floor contains the former offices of Erich Mielke, which are preserved in their original condition. Exhibitions document the genesis, evolution and activities of the Stasi. They also chronicle the storming and occupation of House 1 and the subsequent establishment of the research center and memorial site.

 

Erich Mielke's desk on the second floor of the Stasi Museum. Mielke used the different telephones to speak directly with important people and representatives of institutions in the GDR and the Soviet Union. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Erich Mielke’s desk on the second floor of the Stasi Museum. Mielke used the different telephones to speak directly with important people and representatives of institutions in the GDR and the Soviet Union. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017, www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

About the Stasi Museum’s Exhibitions

In House 1 of the former Stasi headquarters, visitors will discover how the Stasi operated. Everyday items are on display that its agents used to conduct their undercover work. The exhibitions explain how informants were recruited, how citizens were controlled, and how the far-reaching surveillance impacted their lives. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-stasi-and-how-it-worked/ Numerous, often unique, items such as special cameras, listening devices, burglar’s tools and devices for the clandestine opening of letters are on display.

 

This one tops is all: Battery-operated listening device built into a living room door. This family did not learn until after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the Stasi had watched them for 17 years. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

This one tops it all: Battery-operated listening device built into a living room door. This family did not learn until after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the Stasi had watched them for 17 years. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

Even patches of fabric, used by the Stasi to catch opponents of the regime, are shown in their glass jars. As you may recall from The Lives of Others,  Stasi dogs tracked down anti-communists after sniffing cloths impregnated with the suspect’s sweat. According to the Stasi manual, “The subject must remain sitting for at least 10 minutes if a reliable sample is to be obtained.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/why-berlin-cannot-forget-the-stasi-2002600.html The only things removed from the Stasi Museum are the Stasi files. They are still being catalogued. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/reassembling-shredded-stasi-files/

The Stasi Museum offers Guided Tours

Guided tours in English are available on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays at 3 pm. There is no additional charge for the tours aside from the purchased ticket, and no booking is required. Since Berlin’s borough of Lichtenberg, where the Stasi Museum is located, would like to see the buildings repurposed and the current government is talking modernization of the building, you may want to consider visiting the Stasi Museum sooner rather than later.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

Bremen Roland: Bremen’s “Statue of Liberty”

Monday, October 16th, 2017

The Bremen Roland is a statue that symbolizes trading rights and freedom. It stands in the  famous market square (Rathausplatz) of the City of Bremen, Germany. Measured from the ground to the tip of its canopy, the tall stone statue reaches a height of 34 feet. The Statue of Liberty in  New York Harbor in Manhattan would dwarf it with its 305 feet from the ground to the tip of the flame. When it comes to age, however, the Bremen Roland beats New York’s Statue of Liberty by a whopping 482 years. The Bremen Roland was erected in 1404; New York’s Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886. Both sculptures are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Roland statues can be found in a number of German towns that were once part of the Holy Roman Empire. According to legend, Bremen will remain free and independent for as long as Roland stands watch over the city.

The 613-year-old Bremen Roland statue. The shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The 613-year-old Bremen Roland statue. The shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

History of the Bremen Roland

The young knight, Roland, was one of the principal warriors of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor who reigned in the 9th century. During his 46-year reign, Charlemagne won many battles but was badly defeated in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, an area between France and Spain. Roland died in that battle and became an iconic figure in medieval Europe, a symbol of civil liberties, freedom and justice. The Bremen Roland is the oldest surviving statue of its kind. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1087 

After the archbishop’s soldiers destroyed its wooden predecessor in 1366, the city fathers commissioned the current Bremen Roland, carved from limestone. Over the years, the statue was repaired and restored a number of times. During the most recent renovation in 1989, workers discovered a cassette with Nazi propaganda inside of the statue. Apparently, the cassette was deposited there in 1938.

Significance of the Bremen Roland

A representative of the Emperor and dressed according to the height of 15th century fashion, Roland’s task was to protect the city and to guarantee its market rights and freedoms. The Bremen Roland statue stands in the market place in front of the Town Hall and intentionally faces the church. The placement served as a reminder that city rights prevail over the prince-archbishop’s territorial claims.

Fun facts surrounding the Bremen Roland

The distance between Roland’s knees is exactly one Bremen “Elle”, a historical unit of measurement. In 2004, the city fathers played an April Fools joke on the Bremen population. They released a press statement that the Bremen Elle is still in use as a scientific measurement. Internationally known as LMR (Length Measurement Roland), it is employed in airplane construction and space travel, the statement read.

Just as rubbing the front hoofs of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten donkey is said to bring good luck http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/bremer-stadtmusikanten-story, rubbing the knee of the Bremen Roland supposedly guarantees a return to Bremen.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

Berliner Dom Transforms Multiple Times

Monday, October 9th, 2017

 

The Protestant Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) is located on Museum Island in the heart of Berlin, alongside the River Spree. It is Berlin’s largest church and a frequent venue for concerts and readings. The massive dome that soars above the main nave has become a well-known landmark in the city’s historic center. Despite the name, the Berlin Cathedral is not an actual cathedral since the church is not the seat of a bishop. Instead, it has the status of a parish church. During the Hohenzollern dynasty (rulers of Prussia) and during the reign of the German Emperors, the Berliner Dom was the court’s church.

 

Tops of Berliner Dom, two spires and Television Tower. Photo © Gundi Seifert, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Tops of Berliner Dom, two spires and Television Tower. Photo © Gundi Seifert, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

History of the Berliner Dom

The Berliner Dom has a long history. It started as a modest Roman Catholic church in the 15th century, became a Protestant place of worship, was elevated to the status of supreme parish church and survived several demolitions and reconstructions.

FIRST CHURCH – In 1451, Prince-Elector Friedrich II (Irontooth) of Brandenburg moved into the newly erected Stadtschloss (City Place) on the southern part of Museums Island. Read: Berlin’s Museum Island The Stadtschloss included a Catholic chapel. In 1454, Friedrich II elevated that chapel to a Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church.

SECOND CHURCH -Friedrich II wanted a freestanding church, and in 1465 he had one constructed on the present site, across from the Stadtschloss. Read: Stadtschloss Berlin Reconstruction The new church was an unpretentious building. Following the Reformation, it became a Lutheran church and also served the Hohenzollern family as their court church.

THIRD CHURCH – In 1747, that second church was completely demolished and replaced by a Baroque building. Then, between 1820 and 1822, the Baroque church was remodeled into a neo-classical edifice.

FOURTH AND PRESENT CHURCH – In 1894, Emperor Wilhelm II ordered demolition of the neo-classical building and the construction of the much bigger, present-day cathedral to ensure that the Protestant Berliner Dom compared favorably to the Catholic St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Construction of the current structure was completed in 1905. https://www.visitberlin.de/en/berlin-cathedral

War Damage and Reconstruction of the Berliner Dom

In 1944, toward the end of World War II, a firebomb hit the Berliner Dom and severely damaged the dome itself and much of the structure. Following the division of Germany and Berlin, the Cathedral was located in East Berlin. Despite plans to raze the church, East German government officials had a temporary roof installed to protect what remained of the church’s interior. In 1975, they ordered the demolition of the cathedral’s northern wing. It had survived the war intact but had to go because it housed the Denkmalskirche, a Memorial Church and Hall of Honor for the Hohenzollern dynasty. At the same time, as many crosses as possible were removed from the cathedral. Fortunately, however, the East German government decided to reconstruct the remainder of the church in simplified form.

By 1984, five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, restoration of the interior began. Following reunification work continued, and in 1993, the Berliner Dom reopened. The cathedral was consecrated for the second time in 1996 while restoration work continued until 2002.

What not to miss when visiting the Berliner Dom

The Berliner Dom is considerable more ornate than most Protestant churches. Aside from an abundance of marble columns and gilded ornaments, the cathedral’s dome, pipe organ, Imperial Stairwell and crypt are particularly worth seeing.

The DOME of the Berlin Cathedral reaches a height of 322 feet. The outer structure was rebuilt with a simplified cupola and spires. The dome is intricately decorated with mosaics, created by Anton von Werner.

The cathedral’s richly decorated IMPERIAL STAIRWELL was already used by the German Emperor. After climbing 267 steps to the viewing gallery, visitors are rewarded with splendid views of the entire interior of the Berliner Dom and of central Berlin.

From 1545 on, the royal family of Hohenzollern used the church as the family burial place. The Hohenzollern CRYPT contains nearly 94 coffins, sarcophagi and burial monuments from four centuries. https://www.berlin.de/en/attractions-and-sights/3559744-3104052-berlin-cathedral.en.htmlBerlin Cathedral The only Hohenzollern ruler not buried here is Kaiser Wilhelm II, who abdicated in 1918, at the end of the First World War.

The reconstructed PIPE ORGAN has more than 7,000 pipes and was originally built by Wilhelm Sauer in 1905.

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

Berlin’s “Citizens in Motion” memorial

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

 

Berlin’s impending “Citizens in Motion” – Buerger in Bewegung – memorial will commemorate the protest movement that toppled the East German communist regime and led to the reunification of Germany in 1990. In June 2017, more than a quarter of a century later, a memorial to freedom and unity received final approval by the Bundestag (lower House of the German Parliament). The monument is expected to open in 2019, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What the Citizens in Motion memorial will look like

Citizens in Motion will consist of a steel bowl-shaped structure, 180 feet in length and 60 feet across. Inscribed with Wir sind das Volk (We are the people) and Wir sind ein Volk (We are one people), the memorial honors the men and women who caused the Berlin Wall to fall in 1989 and led to the German reunification one year later. The structure will hold up to 1400 people. When at least 20 more people stand on one half of the structure as opposed to the other half, the bowl will gently tip to one side, similar to a teeter-totter. The visitors themselves then become an active part of the monument.

 

Berlin's planned "Citizens in Motion memorial to commemorate the men and women who who caused the Berlin Wall to fall in 1989 and led to the German reunification one year later. Rendering: Milla & Partner. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Berlin’s impending “Citizens in Motion” memorial, which commemorates the men and women who caused the Berlin Wall to fall in 1989 and led to the German reunification one year later. Rendering: Milla & Partner. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Concept of Citizens in Motion

Memorials are normally passive objects of contemplation. Citizens in Motion will be interactive. The monument will come to life when people gather on it. Designed by Stuttgart-based architect Johannes Milla & Partner and Berlin choreographer Sasha Waltz, Citizens in Motion is designed to illustrate how people have to act in concert to effect change.

As the East German economy crumbled and people fled to the West, the East German people began to hold gigantic, non-violent, pro-democracy demonstrations, which led to the fall of Berlin Wall and the socialist government. Then another enormous task faced the German people: Bringing together two Germanys, which, despite a common language, had experienced dramatically different political and economic realities for over 40 years. The road to a German memorial to commemorate freedom and unity was equally difficult. Everything from design, location and cost was controversial. The ensuing debates demonstrated that freedom and unity require participation and interaction. http://www.dw.com/en/bundestag-gives-green-light-to-controversial-german-reunification-monument/a-39093773

Where will the Citizens in Motion memorial be located?

Citizens in Motion will be positioned in front of the Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) in the city’s historic center. The Berlin City Palace is currently undergoing reconstruction and will house the Humboldt Forum when completed. Read: Berliner Stadtschloss to Humboldt Forum The original Berliner Stadtschloss was demolished by the East German regime in 1950 to make way for the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), the East German parliament. Read: The Palace of the Republic lives on In 1989, the square in front of the Palace of the Republic was a site of mass demonstrations, which contributed to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

Bremer Loch – It crows, meows, barks and brays

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The Bremer Loch (Hole of Bremen) is a cleverly disguised underground collection box. It was installed directly in front of the State Parliament (Buergerschaft) among the cobblestones of the market square in Germany’s northern city of Bremen. Since 2007, tourists happily drop coins or paper money into a slot of what looks like a bronze manhole cover. They are rewarded for their donation with a musical thank you from one of the Bremen town musicians (Bremer Stadtmusikanten). Hearing the singing musicians express their gratitude from the depth of the Bremer Loch makes donating all the more fun. Often, visitors drop one coin after another into the slot just to hear all four animal voices.

 

The Bremer Loch (Hole of Bremen), a subterranean collection box. The Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Bremer town musicians) provide the musical thank you. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Bremer Loch (Hole of Bremen), a subterranean collection box. The Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Bremer town musicians) provide the musical thank you. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

How the Bremer Loch works

Underneath a manhole-looking cover, the Bremer Loch is a 36 inches deep and 20 inches in diameter steel container. When a visitor pushes coins into the slot of the box, the money passes a photocell. A light barrier triggers the animal voice of one of the Bremen town musicians http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/bremer-stadtmusikanten-story/. Moments later, the donor hears the cock-a-doodle-doo of a rooster, the meow of a cat, the ruff-ruff or a dog or the hee-haw of a donkey come out of the Bremer Loch. With each small donation, a different voice from the famous quartet of the Bremen City Musicians answers. The animal voices have been pre-recorded on a chip by Radio Bremen.

The Man behind the Bremer Loch Idea

Professor and designer, Fitz Haase, came up with the Bremer Loch idea to assist the city’s charitable organization. Indeed, since 2007, between 12,000 and 17,000 euros are dropped into the slot every year. A manhole that crows, meows, barks and brays is a novel and fun way to get tourists to participate in helping to donate to local charitable projects. In early 2017, the total amount collected since the inception of the Bremer Loch was around 150,000 euros. The collections are managed and distributed by the Wilhelm-Kaisen-Buergerhilfe, a charitable foundation. To learn more about which organizations and projects have been supported by the foundation, go to http://www.bremer-helfen-bremern.de.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Mobile Grill Bauchladen – Unique to Berlin

Monday, September 18th, 2017

What on earth is a Bauchladen you might ask? Roughly translated, it is a “belly shop” and simply put, a Bauchladen is a wooden or cardboard tray that a mobile vendor fastens to the front of his torso. Once secured, the gizmo becomes his “shop” from which he hawks his goods. The tray is equipped with a sturdy strap that fits around the neck so that the tray ends up right in front of the belly and becomes a sales counter. During and shortly after World War II, it was popular to sell cigarettes by way of the Bauchladen. In the United States today, you might see these contraptions being used at sporting and promotional events where snacks are sold.

Although Berlin is best known for its historic buildings, museums, theaters, operas, exhibitions, shopping and nightlife, there is also an idiosyncratic side to the city: The use of the Bauchladen. In several prominent tourist spots near Berlin’s historic center, you might catch a glimpse of vendors with such a contraption strapped to their torsos. Carrying a Bauchladen makes street vendors quite mobile so that they can get closer to the people who might be interested in what they have to offer. Although a Bauchladen enables street traders to hawk their wares without being tied to a fixed location, they still need a city license.

Berlin’s unique type of Bauchladen

Although the Bauchladen is in use in many German cities, the mobile grill Bauchladen appears to be unique to Berlin. Sausage with mustard and a bun are still a favorite fast food in Germany. The mobile grill takes the place of the fixed Wuerstchenbude (sausage stand).  Vendors with a mobile grill Bauchladen strapped to their torso are generally referred to as grill-walkers. In addition to the food items for sale, grill walkers have to carry the grill and a gas tank. The tank is usually strapped to the vendor’s back. Added paraphernalia usually include an umbrella for protection from sun and/or rain. I am told that a mobile grill weighs close to 40 pounds, not including the food for sale. I imagine that grill walkers have sore shoulders and backs by the end of the day.

 

Grill-walker with Bauchladen near the reconstruction of the Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace), Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Grill-walker with Bauchladen near the reconstruction of the Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace), Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Paternoster Ride on your Bucket List?

Monday, September 11th, 2017

 

You have been on elevators, right? But have you ever taken a paternoster from one floor to another? If not, put it on your bucket list. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. Paternosters are rare these days, but not extinct. I used to ride a paternoster regularly to get to the cafeteria level in one of the Tempelhof Airport buildings in Berlin in the 1960’s. Since the repurposing of the airport, however, I doubt that the paternoster still exists.

What is a paternoster and how does it work?

A paternoster lacks most of the features we associate with elevators. It doesn’t stop to take on or drop off passengers. There are no doors. There are no buttons to push to select a floor. The ride is slow (generally one foot per second) to allow passengers to enter and exit.

So how does a paternoster transport people? A paternoster is a continuously moving type of elevator, which consists of a chain of open compartments that slowly move in a loop inside a building. The compartments wrap around like a chain. There are two side-by-side openings on each level. Potential passengers wait for the next compartment to arrive and step into or out of either the “up” or “down” side on any given floor. These endlessly looping lifts are slower than conventional elevators, but the movement never stops so that they are quite efficient. It takes some getting used to, but it is lots of fun to ride a paternoster.

Schematic representation of the functional principle of a paternoster (from wikipedia). www.walled-in-berlin.com

Schematic representation of the functional principle of a paternoster (from wikipedia). www.walled-in-berlin.com

History of the paternoster

The paternoster was invented in England. British architect, Peter Ellis, installed the first elevators that could be described as paternoster lifts in Liverpool in 1868, making him the father of the paternoster. The first true paternoster was installed in 1876 at the General Post Office in London. It was used to transport packages, not people. Then in 1882, British engineer, Peter Hart, developed a paternoster for people.

Paternosters were quite popular in the 20th century and were mostly located in government buildings and universities because passengers in these places are usually able-bodied adults. Getting on and off requires some concentration to avoid tripping or falling and associated injuries. Therefore, paternoster use is not recommended for the elderly, the disabled, wheelchair users or for children. There are also prohibitions against transporting loads with the paternoster. Today, most countries have banned the construction of new paternosters. However, public support for existing ones has helped keep the last few hundred of them operational.

Where does the paternoster get is name?

Initially they were called cyclic elevators. The name “paternoster” became popular because the arrangement of the compartments resembles a rosary. Paternoster compartments make a loop on a chain similar to rosary beads that are rotated by Catholics reciting prayers. Pater Noster literally means Our Father, which are the first words of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin.

Where can paternosters be found?

During the 20th century, paternosters became popular in Europe while never really catching on in the rest of the world. In recent decades, many paternosters have been dismantled. But a few hundred still exist, most of them in Germany. According to some estimates, Germany still has about 231 operational paternosters. Others can be found in Great Britain, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. There may be only two paternosters left outside of Europe.

The oldest, operational paternoster is located in the House of Industry – a concert hall – in Vienna, Austria. The lift was built in 1910. No new paternosters have been allowed in Austria since the 1960s. The last publicly accessible paternoster can be found in the fashion shop Bayard in Bern, Switzerland. The Parliament building of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel has had an operational paternoster since 1950. And the Bundesfinanzministerium (German Finance Ministry, former House of Ministries, now Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus) in Berlin http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/detlev-rohwedder-building-history/ still has a 1982 paternoster. Although no new paternosters have been put into operation in West Germany since 1974, no such restrictions applied to East Germany. Since the Bundesfinanzministerium is located in a building that belonged to the former East Germany, its paternoster could be saved. However, it serves employees only. For safety reasons, they are were required to obtain a “paternoster drivers license” prior to using it.

Paternoster in the German Finance Ministry (Detlev Rohwedder Building) in Berlin, Wilhelmstr. 97. Photo by Andreas Praefcke, 2007. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Paternoster in the German Finance Ministry (Detlev Rohwedder Building) in Berlin, Wilhelmstr. 97. Photo by Andreas Praefcke, 2007. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com