Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

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.

 

 

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

 

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.