Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

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.

 

Detlev Rohwedder Building History

Monday, September 4th, 2017

 

These days, the Detlev Rohwedder Building (Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus) in Berlin is the seat of the Bundesfinanzministerium (German Finance Ministry). However, the building wore many hats over the years and played a significant role in German history. The enormous office complex is located in the Wilhelmstrasse in central Berlin. If bricks and stones could talk, these walls would have interesting stories to tell.

 

Bundesfinanzministerium (Federal Finance Ministry) in Berlin. The building is named the Detlev Rohwedder Building. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2005. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Bundesfinanzministerium (Federal Finance Ministry) in Berlin. The building is named the Detlev Rohwedder Building. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2005. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Along the Leipziger Strasse, the exterior of the building is embellished with a famous wall mural, designed by Max Lingner. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/story-behind-max-lingner-wall-mural/ The mural was created during the post-WWII years when Berlin was divided and the building was located in the eastern section of Berlin. The wall mural is entitled “Building the Republic” and depicts East German excitement over the new social and political order.

How large is the Detlev Rohwedder Building?

The Detlev Rohwedder complex consists of five to seven storied buildings. At the time of its construction (1935 to 1936) it was the largest office complex in Europe. German architect, Ernst Sagebiel, designed the neoclassicist project. Sagebiel also reconstructed Tempelhof Airport on a similarly gigantic scale.  The Detlev Rohwedder building has as reinforced concrete skeleton and an exterior facing of limestone and travertine. The stone came from no fewer than 50 quarries. Even today, The Detlev Rohwedder Building remains one the largest office complexes in Berlin. It houses more than 2,100 offices, contains 4.25 miles of corridors, 17 staircases, four elevators and three paternoster lifts. The complex has two wings, an Ehrensaal (Hall of Honor) facing Wilhelmstrasse, two large inner courtyards and a facility management yard. The gross floor area totals more than 1,205,000 square feet with almost 603,000 square feet of useable space.

Detlev Rohwedder Building During the Nazi Era

The Delev Rohwedder Building initially served as the headquarters of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Reich Aviation Ministry). Four thousand bureaucrats and their secretaries were employed within its walls. The building played a central role in the war effort during World War II.

Detlev Rohwedder Building During the East German Era

Miraculously, the building came through World War II with only minor damage. The exception was the Ehrenhalle (Hall of Honor). It underwent major expansion and remodeling to become a Stalinist-style Festsaal (Festival Hall). Until 1948, the building served as the headquarters for the Soviet military administration. From 1947 to 1949, the Deutsche Wirtschaftskommission (German Economic Commission) was located here. During that time, the building became known as the DWK-Building.

On 7 October 1949 the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was founded in the building’s Festival Hall. Later, the complex served the Council of Ministers of East Germany and became known as Haus der Ministerien (House of Ministries). It was in this building that East German head of state, Walter Ulbricht, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke/ertle/image-challenged-walter-ulbricht/ insisted in June of 1961 that “no one has any intention of building a wall.” The statement was made only two months before construction of the Berlin Wall began. As a seat of governmental power, the House of Ministries was also at the center of the East German people’s uprising of 17 June 1953. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/east-german-uprising-of-17-june-1953/

Detlev Rohwedder Building since German Reunification

Following German Reunification on 3 October 1990, the building was used by the Berlin branches of the Bundesfinanzministerium (German Finance Ministry) and by the Federal Court of Auditors. The Treuhandanstalt, an agency charged with privatizing the East German economy, occupied other parts of the building  http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/Germanys-unite-through-Treuhandanstalt/

The building was renamed the Detlev Rohwedder Building in honor of Detlev Karsten Rohwedder, head of the Treuhandanstalt, following his assassination in 1991. In the course of the relocation of the German Government from Bonn to Berlin, the German Finance Ministry transferred its head office to Berlin. During subsequent reconstruction and renovation works the structure of the offices, stone facade and the mural by Max Lingner were preserved. Conference, press and visitor centers were redesigned and equipped with state-of-the-art conference technology.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Story behind Max Lingner wall mural

Monday, August 28th, 2017

 

In 1950, Max Lingner (1888 to 1959), German painter and graphic artist, won a competition to create a 60-foot mural. Made out of Meissen porcelain tiles, the mural embellishes the exterior of a massive office complex on Wilhelmstrasse in central Berlin. When Lingner created the mural, the complex was known as the Haus der Ministerien (House of Ministries). During World War II, it was called the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Reich Aviation Ministry. Since 1991, it is referred to as the Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus (Detlev Rohwedder Building). http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/detlev-rohwedder-building-history/

 

Bundesfinanzministerium (Federal Finance Ministry) in Berlin. The building is named "Detlev Rohwedder Building". Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2002. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Bundesfinanzministerium (Federal Finance Ministry) in Berlin. The building is named “Detlev Rohwedder Building”. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2002. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

Why such a large mural was commissioned

The East German state was created  in 1949. At the time of the design competition, Germany was divided and the House of Ministries was located in the Soviet Occupation Zone. It had miraculously survived World War II and needed to be repurposed. First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, Walter Ulbricht, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/image-challenged-walter-ulbricht/ and East German Prime Minister, Otto Grotewohl, tried to reinterpret the building’s Nazi architecture in accordance with the new socialist ideals of East Germany. They commissioned Max Lingner to create a large mural depicting contented citizens looking toward a bright future under communism.

Max Lingner tries to meet the challenge

Lingner’s original design was entitled, “Die Bedeutung des Friedens fuer die kulturelle Entwicklung der Menschheit und die Notwendigkeit des kaempferischen Einsatzes fuer ihn.” (The Importance of Peace for the Cultural Development of Humanity and the Need to Fight for it). https://www.museum-der-1000-orte.de/kunstwerke/kunstwerk/aufbau-der-republik He chose to portray several self-reliant, poised family groups filled with zest for a new and better life. But Otto Grotewohl had different ideas. He sought a mural with political undertones. He changed the name of the mural to Aufbau der Republik (Building the Republic). Lingner was asked to revise his design no fewer than five times to achieve these new objectives. In fact, Grotewohl, a hobby-painter, changed Lingner’s drafts several times himself.

As far as East Germany’s leadership was concerned, Max Lingner, who had lived and worked in Paris for many years, had adopted a style of drawing that was considered too frivolous and playful. His style was criticized as being “too French.” The final product bore little resemblance to Max Lingner’s original design. In fact, neither Lingner nor Grotewohl were ever really satisfied with the final “Aufbau der Republik” mural.

Elements of the Max Lingner Mural

In the “Aufbau der Republik” mural, everyone looks strong, healthy and happy to work toward a common cause. Young members of the FDJ (a youth movement in the former East Germany), musicians and young pioneers sing and dance in the streets. Officials in business attire, working class tradesmen, a farmer, an engineer and an intellectual work closely together in the new classless society.

 

Max Lingner's famous wall mural embellishing the Detlev Rohwedder Building in Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2002. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Max Lingner’s famous wall mural embellishing the Detlev Rohwedder Building in Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2002. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

It is all the more ironic, then, that only one year after installation of the Max Lingner mural, the House of Ministries became the focal point of the 1953 East German Uprising http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/east-german-uprising-of-17-june-1953/ when construction workers from a Stalinallee project (renamed Karl-Marx-Allee) http://walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/karl-marx-allee-post-wwii-flagship-project/ marched to the House of the Ministries to protest a 10% increase in performance quotas. When the peaceful march turned into a rebellion, Soviet tanks crushed it.

In 2000, Wolfgang Rueppel’s magnified photo of the 1953 protesters was laminated under glass and sunk into the floor in front of the Detlev Rohwedder Building, not far from the mural. Rather than happy, contented faces, the photograph shows angry and disappointed ones. Next to each other, mural and photo clearly reflect the conflict between socialist wishful thinking and social reality.

 

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 House of the Wannsee Conference

Monday, August 14th, 2017

The stately House of the Wannsee Conference – Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz – overlooks the Havel River in the quiet suburb of Berlin-Wannsee. However, the palatial country estate has a sinister past. In January of 1942, an infamous meeting was held in its dining room with fifteen high-ranking representatives of Nazi ministries and the SS (Schutzstaffel – Protection Squadron) in attendance. They discussed details of the planned “final solution to the Jewish question.

 

House of the Wannsee Conference, since 1992 a memorial and educational site. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

House of the Wannsee Conference, since 1992 a memorial and educational site. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Final solution to the Jewish question

The Final Solution to the Jewish Question (Endloesung der Judenfrage) was a Nazi plan to systematically exterminate the Jews during World War II. At the time of the Wannsee Conference, the decision to exterminate the Jews in German-occupied Europe had already been made. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss collaboration between agencies. A secondary goal was to arrive at definitions of who was Jewish, who was of mixed race, and who should be spared. At the Wannsee Conference it was decided that persons of mixed race of the first degree (with two Jewish grandparents) would be treated as Jews. This would not apply if they were married to a non-Jew and had children by that marriage. Such persons would be sterilized. Persons of mixed race of the second degree (with one Jewish grandparent) would be treated as Germans unless they were married to Jews.

History of the House of the Wannsee Conference

Originally referred to as Villa Minoux or Villa Wannsee, the estate is now known as “House of the Wannsee Conference.” The spacious mansion was built in 1914 by German factory owner Ernst Marlier. Six years later, Marlier sold the house to Friedrich Minoux, a German industrialist and financier. When Minoux was convicted of fraud and went to jail in 1941, he sold the estate at market price to a foundation that was controlled by the SS. https://www.visitberlin.de/en/house-wannsee-conference The SS used the villa as a conference center and guesthouse and held the Wannsee Conference in its walls in 1942.  In 1943, the Third Reich Security Main Office purchased the residence. Following WWII, the villa served various functions until 1992, when it was turned into a memorial and educational site on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference. https://www.scrapbookpages.com/EasternGermany/Wannsee/History.html

Free Exhibit at the House of the Wannsee Conference

In 2006, a permanent exhibit opened on the ground floor of the villa, entitled, “The Wannsee Conference and the genocide of the European Jews.” It is free to the public. Although the Wannsee Conference is the central focus of the exhibition, there are many documents on display about the history of Jewish persecution, anti-Semitism and racism in the 1920s, Third Reich propaganda posters and leaflets and photos and books about Jewish ghettos. The exhibition was one of the best I have visited in a long time. The estate is small enough to allow for full absorption of the information provided. Given current events around the world, the visitor cannot help but wonder what humankind has or has not learned during the past 75 years.

 

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 Café Kranzler in name only

Monday, July 10th, 2017

For most of 175 years, Berlin’s Café Kranzler was a legendary confectionery, an institution, a place to see and be seen. Berliners revere coffee houses, particularly if the sun is out and sidewalk seating is available. Already back in 1845 they maintained, “A coffee house is part of our social wellbeing, to complement our social life.” Their love affair with cafés continues to this day.

Café Kranzler survived two world wars, the Nazi era, several owners and a changing clientele. But in 2000, it closed its doors forever. Only its landmark red and white awning survives, being on the cultural heritage register.

Café Kranzler’s predecessor

In 1825, the Viennese confectioner Johann Georg Kranzler opened his first modest pastry shop/café on Friedrichstrasse at the corner of Behrenstrasse in the central district of Mitte. The establishment took off, and Mr. Kranzler was able to enlarge his café nine years later, to include the entire first and the second floors of the building.

Café Kranzler – parent house

In 1833, Johann Georg Kranzler closed his original pastry shop and purchased a building right on Berlin’s famous boulevard, Unter den Linden No. 25 at the corner of Friedrichstrasse. Here he opened a café and named it Café Kranzler. It sported a sun terrace and an ice cream parlor. He served Viennese specialty coffees and pastries as well as Russian ice cream. Within a short time, the café became THE meeting place for Berlin’s literary society and bourgeoisie. Here one could meet, discuss and debate. Café Kranzler was the first café in Berlin to place small tables and chairs in the sidewalk and to offer a smokers’ room. The establishment quickly gained the reputation of being one of the city’s finest cafés.

Following Mr. Kranzler’s death in 1866, his heirs sold the café to the Hotel-Betriebs-Aktiengesellschaft. But Café Kranzler’s name and fame continued to live on until the building was completely destroyed on 7 May 1944 during an air raid. The café never re-opened at the Unter den Linden location. Instead, its new permanent home became the already established branch location on Kurfuerstendamm at the corner of Joachimstaler Strasse, near the Zoo station.

 

Former Café Kranzler at Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse after having been completely destroyed by British and American air raids. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-J31402, 1945. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Former Café Kranzler at Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse after having been completely destroyed by British and American air raids. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-J31402, 1945. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Café Kranzler – branch location

In 1932, the Café Kranzler branch on Kurfuerstendamm had opened under the name of Restaurant and Konditorei Kranzler (Restaurant and Patisserie Kranzler), operated by Kempinski Hotels. In 1945, during the Battle of Berlin it, too, was completely destroyed, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-battle-of-berlin-ended-wwii/ and the café did not open its doors again until 1951, long after Berlin’s division.

At the time of the reopening, the café was housed in a one-story structure (ground floor plus an upper story), which was replaced in 1957/1958 with a two-story building (ground floor plus two upper stories) and a rotunda at the top. The rotunda had a red and white striped awning, which became an easily recognizable landmark. After the second re-opening in 1958, Café Kranzler quickly became a magnet for tourists and socialites and grew into something akin to an institution in West Berlin. It was the Kranzler that I knew and loved in the 1960s. Despite being spread over three floors, until the end of 1999, its guests preferred to sit in the sidewalk and watch the world go by.

In 2000, in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, all that changed. Café Kranzler had to close its doors for the third time because the city implemented massive redevelopment plans for the area. In 2001, it re-opened as Neues Kranzler Eck, part of a shopping center and operated by the clothier Gerry Weber. The fashion designer occupied the ground and upper floors, and Café Kranzler was limited to the use of the rotunda. In fact, the café became something of an afterthought. It could only be accessed via a staircase inside the clothing store or via an elevator at the end of a long hall. Gone were the days as well of enjoying a coffee in the sidewalk while people-watching. The sidewalk was now off limits to Kranzler guests. It was a café during the day and a bar at night https://www.welt.de/print-welt/article504686/Mit-dem-Cafe-Kranzler-verabschiedet-sich-auch-das-alte-West-Berlin.html

But more changes were to come. In 2016, The British fashion label Superdry replaced Gerry Weber on the first two floors. The spiral staircase leading to the rotunda was re-opened, and The Barn, a specialty coffee roasting firm, now occupies the rotunda of the once legendary Café Kranzler. The world-class relic is gone and exists in name only.

 

Café Kranzler with tenants Superdry and The Barn. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, April 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Café Kranzler with tenants Superdry and The Barn. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, April 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

For readers who are familiar with Café Kranzler, wasn’t there a time in the 70s when Café Zuntz occupied one of the floors? If you remember anything about that, please share it with me.

 

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

 

Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park

Monday, June 26th, 2017

 

The Soviet War Memorial (Ehrenmal) in Treptow Park is one of three Soviet war memorials erected in Berlin following World War II. They honor the roughly 80,000 soldiers of the Red Army who fell in the Battle of Berlin, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-battle-of-berlin-ended-wwii/ the final major offensive in the European theatre and one of the largest battles of World War II.

In the last days of the war, between 6 April and 2 May 1945, the Red Army battled bitterly the remnants of the German Army, the old men of the Volkssturm (National Militia) and the Hitler Youth. During that battle, more than 70,000 people were killed. The dead included more than 22,000 Soviet soldiers, 20,000 German soldiers and 30,000 civilians. To commemorate their victory, the Soviets built three lavish war monuments in Berlin: One is located in the park of Berlin-Treptow, the other two are located in Berlin-Pankow and in Berlin-Tiergarten. All three serve not only as war memorials but also as war cemeteries.

The Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park was built between 1946 and 1949 on the site of a previous sports field. Some 5,000 soldiers of the Red Army found a final resting place in this enormous park.

 

Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Experiencing the Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park

After entering the War Memorial through a stone arch, the first monument the visitor comes upon is the statue of Mother Russia, a woman weeping for the loss of her sons. From there, a wide tree-lined path leads to two giant Soviet flags made of red granite. The granite and stones came from Hitler’s demolished New Reich Chancellery, designed by Albert Speer, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/albert-speer-designed-for-ruin-value/ and http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/germania-hitlers-utopian-quest/. The New Reich Chancellery was badly damaged during the Battle of Berlin and completely dismantled by the Soviet occupation forces after World War II had ended. Statues of kneeling soldiers flank the granite flags.

 

Mother Russia statue, Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Mother Russia statue, Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

Sixteen stone sarcophagi line the sides of the paths of the Soviet War Memorial. The paths lead to a giant statue in the center of a grassy rotunda. Each sarcophagus represents one of the Soviet Republics in existence at that time. The sarcophagi are decorated with military reliefs and engraved with some of Stalin’s quotes. The imposing statue in the center of the rotunda depicts a Soviet soldier holding a German child in his arm while crushing a swastika at his feet with a sword. According to Marshal Vasily Chuikov, Army Commander during the Battle of Stalingrad, the 40-foot statue commemorates the selfless act of Sergeant of Guards Nikolai Masalov.

Statue of Soviet soldier holding a German child in his arm while crushing a swastika at his feet with a sword. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Statue of Soviet soldier holding a German child in his arm while crushing a swastika at his feet with a sword. Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Masalov is said to have risked his life under heavy German fire to save a three-year-old German girl whose mother was killed. Although many Berliners voice doubt regarding the truthfulness of the story, it is nice to think that some people preserve their humanity, even when at war. What is definitely true is that Svetlana Kotikova served as the model for the German child. She was the daughter of Alexander Kotikov, the commander of Berlin’s Soviet sector who served in Berlin from 1946 on. During the Berlin Airlift http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlin-airlift-unprecedented-feat/, Kotikov represented the Soviets on the Allied Kommandatura. Commandant Frank L. Howley represented the United States. When Howley asked to be excused shortly before midnight on 16 June 1948 because he had a heavy scheduled the following day and left his Deputy in charge, Kotikov stomped out of the meeting and refused to participate in future meetings. The quadripartite governance of Berlin, in effect, came to an end because of his actions. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/allied-kommandatura-governs-berlin/

 Upkeep of Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park

Initially, the Russian government paid for the upkeep of the Soviet War Memorial. But as part of the Two Plus Four Treaty of 1990 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/two-plus-four-treaty/ and the German-Russian agreement on the upkeep of war graves in 1992, Germany agreed to assume the responsibility for maintenance and repair for all war memorials and military graves in the country.

 

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

 

Siegessaeule – Berlin’s heftiest Lady

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

 

The Siegessaeule (victory column) is a prominent monument in Berlin, Germany. Including the sculpture on top, it measures 220 feet. A 285-step spiral staircase inside the column takes visitors to a viewing platform with spectacular views of the Reichstag http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-reichstag-prominent-berlin-landmark/, the Brandenburg Gate http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-brandenburg-gate/, the Berlin Television Tower http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlin-television-tower/ and the Soviet War Memorial. In 2008, then US presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke in front of the monument. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/president-barack-obama-to-visit-berlin/

History of the Siegessaeule

The Siegessaeule was designed by Johann Heinrich Strack and constructed to commemorate the Prussian victory over the Danes. But by the time the column was inaugurated in 1873, Prussia had also won the so-called liberation wars with Austria and France. Therefore, the original plans for the column were revised, and the monument was elongated and crowned with a 25-foot statue of Victoria, the Goddess of Victory.

The Siegessaeule sits on a four-sided base of polished red granite, which is decorated with glass mosaics and large bronze panels depicting the Prussian victories over Denmark, Austria and France of the late 1900s. In 1945, the French removed those reliefs and took them to Paris in an effort to erase those memories. But in 1987, on the occasion of Berlin’s 750th anniversary, France returned the panels to be reinstalled. A circular portico tops the base of the monument and supports four (originally three) fluted columns.

 

Berlin's Siegessaeule, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Berlin’s Siegessaeule, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Siegessaeule once stood in the Koenigsplatz (now Platz der Republik) in front of the Reichstag. In 1939, the Nazi government removed the monument to its current location in the Tiergarten, a large public park. Since each of the three columns already represented previous victories, Hitler had a fourth column added, anticipating his own impending victory. The relocation was part of a plan by Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer, to transform Berlin into Germania, Hitler’s vision of a Berlin that is the capital of the world. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/germania-hitlers-utopian-quest/ Speer’s plan was never realized, of course, but because of its relocation the Siegessaeule survived World War II with very little damage. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/albert-speer-designed-for-ruin-value/

The statue of Victoria at the top of the monument was designed by Friedrich Drake and weighs 38 tons. Berliners affectionately call her Goldelse (Golden Lizzy) or the “heftiest lady in Berlin.” Five major roads cut through the Tiergarten and intersect at an immense roundabout that is known as Grosser Stern (Great Star). The Siegessaeule stands in the middle of this roundabout and is accessible to pedestrians through four tunnels.

The "Goldelse" on top of the Siegessaeule. Photo © J. Elke Ertle. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The “Goldelse” on top of the Siegessaeule. Photo © J. Elke Ertle. 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

 

 

 

 

Leierkastenmann of Yore

Monday, March 13th, 2017

 

“Dear Leierkastenmann, start from the top once more …” is the beginning of a sentimental tune about Berlin in the 18th and 19th centuries. Often cranked out on a barrel organ and recorded by Marlene Dietrich, Hildegard Knef, Walter Kollo, Claire Waldoff, Bully Buhlan and many others, the song evokes a yearning for simpler times. The German lyrics are:

Lieber Leierkastenmann,

Fang nochmal von vorne an.

Deine alten Melodien

Von der schoenen Stadt Berlin.

Stehst du unten auf dem Hof

Wird mir gleich ums Herz so doof.

Noch mal so’n junges Blut sein

Noch einmal im Tanz sich zaertlich dreh’n.

Lasst man Kinder, lasst man gut sein,

Uns’re Stadt Berlin ist doch so schoen.

What is a Leierkastenmann?

Leierkasten is the German word for street organ or barrel organ. Pins on a large barrel store the music. A person – usually a man – turning a crank to activate the music is called a Leierkastenmann. A woman is a Leierkastenfrau. The organs were designed to be small and mobile enough to be carried or rolled from street to street and courtyard to courtyard, where the Leierkastenmann would play his tune and hopefully collect some coins before moving on. Most of these street performers cranked barrel organs for a living, and most of these street organs had 20 or fewer pipes and weighed only a few pounds. Due to their small size, their barrels could only contain a few tunes of fixed length, which greatly limited the Leierkastenmann’s repertoire. Most of the tunes played were excerpts from operas, operettas and marches.

When was the Leierkasten popular?

Empress Maria Theresa of Austria was the first to authorize permits to crank a Leierkasten in public. Licenses went to invalids of the Seven-Years-War to help them make a living. In 1810, Prussia copied Austria and issued permits as well. Not every duly licensed Leiderkastenmann owned his own Leierkasten, however. Many rented the relatively expensive instruments from the manufacturer.

As the number of organ barrel operators increased steadily in the second half of the 19th century, Berlin became the leader of German Leierkasten manufacturing. Up to 3,000 licensed operators cranked a Leierkasten on a daily basis in Berlin alone. As these men moved through the city, residents opened their windows and threw a paper-wrapped five- or ten-Pfennig coin to the Leierkastenmann. I was a little girl in the 1950s and remember being allowed to throw a wrapped coin to the Leierkastenmann five stories below. I watched keenly as he spotted the change, doffed his hat and moved on.

In the 1950s, the popularity of the Leierkastenmann had already declined. The increase in automobiles made streets and public spaces noisy places. The noise drowned out the Leierkastenmann, and radio and record players filled the void. The exception was a well-known Leierkastenfrau (woman barrel organ player) by the name of Elsa Oehmigen, who continued to practice her trade throughout Germany until 1992. However, she rarely played in public places, but usually performed at private events.

Leierkastenmann of Today

The Leierkastenmann of yore does not exist anymore. Most current owners of a barrel organ are collectors or lovers of the instrument. In addition to a few antique barrel organs, there are many more modern street organs in existence. The latter do not operate on pinned barrels, but use perforated paper rolls (similar to player piano rolls) or sometimes even electronic systems.

"Orgel-Ebi" Eberhardt Franke in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Photo courtesy of berliner-kurier.de

“Orgel-Ebi” Eberhardt Franke in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Photo courtesy of berliner-kurier.de

Once a profession to make ends meet, the Leierkastenmann has become an icon. In 1987, German sculptor, Gerhard Thieme, memorialized the Leierkastenmann by creating a bronze sculpture, which now stands in the beer garden of the Café Reinhardt in the Berlin’s Nikolai Quarters.

 

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

 

 

How Prussian Virtues Came About

Monday, January 16th, 2017

 

Prussian virtues (Preussische Tugenden) are behaviors of high moral standards that are said to once have been the hallmark of the inhabitants of Prussia. Some of these values are still attributed to the German people today. The list of Prussian virtues depends on the author but can be condensed to the core values of discipline, self-control, punctuality, thriftiness, service and hard work.

Brief History of Prussia

Between 1925 and 1947, Prussia was a state that centered in the area of today’s Germany, but with boundaries extending far beyond Germany’s current borders. The House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia and expanded its size with the help of an extremely well organized army. Initially, the Prussian capital was Koenigsberg. In 1701 Friedrich I (Frederick I) became the first King of Prussia and chose Berlin as the capital. In 1871, the German states united under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/otto-von-bismarck-visionary-or-villain/ Unification created a German Empire under Prussian leadership. In the aftermath of World War I, in 1918, the monarchy was abolished, and the Kingdom of Prussia became a republic, known as the Weimar Republic.  In 1933, the Nazi regime seized control of the Prussian government. Following World War II, Germany was divided into Allied occupation zones, and Prussia ceased to exist. On 25 February 1947, the Allied Control Council http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-erte/allied-control-council-governs-germany/ formally proclaimed the dissolution of Prussia.

Origin of Prussian Virtues

When Prussia became a kingdom under Friedrich I over 300 years ago, it was a poor state with fragmented territories. In 1713, his son, Friedrich Wilhelm I (Frederick William I) became King of Prussia. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/frederick-william-i-a-troubled-ruler/ Friedrich Wilhelm was known as the “Soldier King” because he made considerable reforms to the Prussian army’s training, tactics and conscription. He demanded discipline, efficiency and good work ethics from his soldiers. During the “Soldier King’s” reign, Prussian discipline and Prussian virtues became accepted concepts. Today’s interpretation of Prussian discipline tends to be one in which the soldier blindly follows orders. But under Friedrich Wilhelm’s reign, discipline was a two-way street. Soldiers and their superiors were subject to the same rigorous rules.

In civilian society, Prussian virtues were initially frowned upon. With time, however, they began to seep in, particularly in light of the fact that Prussia had risen from nothing to greatness based on its Prussian discipline and Prussian virtues.

Prussian Virtues today

Even though the state of Prussia doesn’t exist anymore, Prussian virtues have not totally disappeared. In 2001, the German government proclaimed a “Prussian year” with celebrations of its Prussian heritage. Tolerance, reform, selflessness and modesty were highlighted to point out that during Prussian rule Jewish citizens were emancipated, feudalism and serfdom were eliminated, immigration was encouraged, the arts and sciences were celebrated and education of the young was made available and mandatory. In my own family, Prussian orderliness, sense of duty, honesty, punctuality, thriftiness, hard work, restraint and dependability were always stressed and expected.

 

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

 

 

Alexandrowka – Russian Colony in Potsdam

Monday, December 26th, 2016

 

The Russian colony Alexandrowka is located in the northern part of the city of Potsdam, not far from Berlin. Karlo Rossi, a Russian architect of Italian origin, designed the village in the 19th century. It resembles Glosovo in appearance, a settlement near Petersburg in Russia. In 1996, Alexandrowka was included UNESCO’s Potsdam World Heritage Site.

 

One of 12 houses in Alexandrowka, a Russian Colony in Potsdam, near Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 1213. www.walled-in-berlin.com

One of 12 houses in Alexandrowka, a Russian Colony in Potsdam, near Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 1213. www.walled-in-berlin.com

History of the Alexandrowka Colony

Alexandrowka was built between 1826 and 1827. King Friedrich Wilhelm III who ruled Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars and the end of the Holy Roman Empire ordered construction of the colony. Historical and personal circumstances motivated him to create the colony.

In 1806 the French had invaded and defeated Prussia in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt. In 1812 they had invaded Russia. This time, however, they were badly defeated themselves so that the great French dominion collapsed. Following the 1812 war, sixty-two Russian soldiers remained in Potsdam. From this group a choir was formed to entertain the Prussian troops. In 1825, Tsar Alexander I died, and King Friedrich Wilhelm III ordered the construction of Alexandrowka to memorialize his kinship and friendship with the Romanov family. He built the colony for the last twelve Russian singers of the former soldiers choir who were still living in Potsdam at the time. He named the village Alexandrowka after the Tsarina.

Construction of the Alexandrowka Houses

King Friedrich Wilhelm III had 12 one-and two-story wooden houses constructed on small homesteads. Military artisans, belonging to Prussian guard regiments, built the half-timbered houses (having walls with a timber frame and a brick or plaster filling) with semicircular logs, to make them look like log cabins. In Russia, the homes would have been covered with straw. In Prussia, a Holzverbretterung (timber cladding) was chosen, which was replaced with slate at the end of the 19th century. Each homestead consisted of a house with a balcony and a loggia. A loggia is a covered exterior corridor with an outer wall that is open to the elements and supported by a series of columns. Through a roofed gate the loggia was connected to a small stable building. Every house had a garden. Every household was given a cow. All houses were fully furnished.

 

Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia built the houses for twelve singers who belonged to a choir, made up of former Russian soldiers. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia built the houses for twelve singers who belonged to a choir, made up of former Russian soldiers. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

In 1827, the twelve singers and their families moved in. They neither purchased the properties, nor did they lease or mortgage them. Instead, each homestead was handed down to male descendants. In 1861, the last singer died. By 1927, only two families in Alexandrowka were direct descendants of the original Russian soldiers who had settled there. And in 2008, the last of these direct descendants died. His family name was Schischkoff.

Since the German reunification in 1990 most of the houses in the settlement are privately owned. Since 2005, the museum of Alexandrowka provides insight into the history and architecture of the log cabins and provides information on their construction method.

 

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