Archive for the ‘Walled In Berlin’ Category

Truth about the Human Tongue

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Sad truth about the human tongue – It takes only three years to learn how to use it, but it takes a lifetime to learn where and when to use it.

— Anonymous

The human tongue - It takes a lifetime to learn where and when to use it. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The human tongue – It takes a lifetime to learn where and when to use it. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Best Argument against Democracy

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

 

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

— Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965). www.walled-in-berlin.com

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965). 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.

 

Recognizing the True Value of a Moment

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

 

Often, we don’t recognize the true value of a moment until it has become a memory.

— Anonymous

 

Savoring the True Value of a Moment, Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Savoring the True Value of a Moment. 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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Ultimate Politician’s Credo when clueless

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

 

The ultimate politician’s credo when clueless is: “If you can’t figure out what’s important, pick something trivial and pronounce it critically important.”

— Anonymous

 

The dyed-in-the-wool politician's credo at work. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The ultimate politician’s credo at work. 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.

 

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.

 

 

Do people really hunger for truth?

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.
— George R.R. Martin

There must be some TRUTH in broccoli? www.walled-in-berlin.com

There must be some TRUTH in broccoli? 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.

 

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.