Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

The Four Faces of the Neue Wache Memorial

Monday, July 4th, 2016

 

The Neue Wache (New Guardhouse) in Berlin is located on the boulevard Unter den Linden between Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum) and Humboldt University. Since 1993, the Neue Wache is a memorial to the victims of war and tyranny. However, during its 200-year history, it had four distinct faces. The building’s interior has seen even more configurations during that time.

History of the Neue Wache

In 1818, on the occasion of Germany’s victory in the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon, King Friedrich Wilhelm III ordered the construction of the Neue Wache. Originally, it was erected as a guardhouse for the Prussian royal family and a monument to the victims of the anti-Napoleonic wars. For the next 100 years the Royal Guard was stationed at the Neue Wache. It was the Neue Wache to which Wilhelm Voigt, the bogus “Captain from Koepenick,” took the mayor and the city treasurer of Koepenick in 1906 while impersonating a captain in the Regiment of Foot Guards. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-captain-from-koepenick-ruse/

One hundred years later, in 1918, the German monarchy abdicated and the Neue Wache was converted into a memorial for the victims of World War I. During World War II the building was severely damaged by bombs.

Following the division of Germany in 1945, the Neue Wache was located in the Soviet sector of the divided city. In 1960, the East German government transformed the restored building into a memorial to the victims of fascism and militarism. It housed an eternal flame in a cube above the remains of an unknown concentration camp prisoner and an unknown fallen soldier. A Soviet honor guard stood watch and marched in front of the memorial.

Change of the Soviet Honor Guard in front of Neue Wache - photo © J. Elke Ertle, 1990, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Change of the Soviet Honor Guard in front of Neue Wache – photo © J. Elke Ertle, 1990, www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Neue Wache Today

In 1993, the Reunified Germany turned the Neue Wache into its main monument for the commemoration of the victims of war and tyranny. The building now houses Kaethe Kollwitz’s sculpture “Mother and her Dead Son.” An open, circular skylight provides the only light and leaves the sculpture in the center exposed to wind and weather. An underground room still houses the remains of the unknown soldier and soil from battlefields and concentration camps.

Kaethe Kollwitz sculpture "Mother and her Dead Son" inside the Neue Wache, Berlin - photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Kaethe Kollwitz sculpture “Mother and her Dead Son” inside the Neue Wache, Berlin – photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Who was the artist Kaethe Kollwitz?

Kaethe Kollwitz, a well-known German artist, was born in eastern Prussia in 1867. With the outbreak of the First World War, her sons Hans and Peter volunteered for service. Peter was killed just months into the conflict and Kollwitz never recovered from the loss. Several of her sculptures, including “Mother and her Dead Son” were inspired by Peter’s untimely death.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cold War Checkpoint Charlie – Part 1

Monday, April 4th, 2016

For almost three decades – from 1961 to 1990 – Checkpoint Charlie was an important border crossing point between East and West Berlin. It was located in the Friedrichstrasse, near Zimmerstrasse, on the western side of the border. Along with Glienicker Bruecke (Glienicke Bridge) Checkpoint Charlie was the most prominent border crossing point during the Cold War.

Checkpoint Charlie’s Function

Checkpoint Charlie was a sentry post of the Western Allies and the main demarcation point between Western-occupied West Berlin and Soviet-occupied East Berlin. Its main function was to register and brief Allied military personnel prior to entering the eastern sector. It was also the only point where diplomats, journalists and foreign tourists could cross into Berlin’s Soviet sector. Germans were prohibited from using this checkpoint. Checkpoint Charlie could be passed by foot or by car. Any visit to the eastern sector required a one-day visa and the exchange of a specified amount of West German Marks for East German Marks. The exchange rate was set at 1:1 even though the official rate of exchange was 4:1.

Warning to anyone about to venture into the eastern sector of Berlin, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Warning to anyone about to venture into the eastern sector of Berlin, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Where did Checkpoint Charlie get its name?

The name “Charlie” came from the letter C in the NATO phonetic alphabet. There were two other Allied checkpoints in Germany: Checkpoint Bravo at Drewitz-Dreilinden (the border between East Germany and West Berlin) and Checkpoint Alpha at Helmstedt-Marienborn (the border between West Germany and East Germany).

Checkpoint Charlie operated for 29 years

During most of that time, the western side of Checkpoint Charlie consisted of nothing more than a tiny wooden shack and a few sandbags. In the 1980s, the original guardhouse was replaced by a larger metal structure. But it, too, was modest compared to the East German checkpoint. The unassuming appearance of the western side was intentional. With this simple shack, the Western Allies tried to convey that they did not consider the Berlin Wall to be a legitimate border. The East German side of Checkpoint Charlie, on the other hand, included guard towers, cement barriers and a building where the inspection of vehicles and passengers took place. Searches included heat scans to detect fugitives. To read about Checkpoint Charlie’s role in the East/West showdown in October 1961 and the current location of the old guardhouse, please visit http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/cold-war-checkpoint-charlie-part-2/

 

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

 

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The doener – Germany’s fast food favorite

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Foreigners usually associate Germany with sausages of all kinds. But when it comes to simple meals, the doener is Germany’s favorite food. Although it is a Turkish invention, Germany sports more doener stalls than McDonald’s or Burger Kings combined. There are about 17,000 doener stalls in the country, 1,000 in Berlin alone.

What is a doener?

The word doener comes from the Turkish verb doenmek, which means to rotate. Today’s German doener is a variation of the original Turkish doener kebab, which has been in existence for many centuries. Way back in the 19th century, a cook named Iskender Efendi from the city of Bursa, Turkey, came up with the idea of serving kebabs. He placed chunks of lamb on a spit and roasted them horizontally. He served the meal on plates along with rice and tomatoes.

German doeners, on the other hand, are a take-away item. A 2- to 3-foot stack of seasoned, marinated chicken, turkey or beef (rarely lamb) is layered on a vertical spit, which slowly rotates in front of a heating element. The outer layer of the meat cooks while the inside layer remains frozen. Only the crisp outer edges of the meat are sliced off the constantly rotating skewer. The meat is then heaped onto a piece of charred flatbread and topped with various chopped vegetables and a spicy or yogurt-based sauce.

Doener stand near the ICC North S-Bahn station in Berlin, © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Doener stand near the ICC North S-Bahn station in Berlin, © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Who brought the doener to Germany?

Most people agree that a Turkish-born immigrant to Berlin created the first German doener. This man not only adapted the popular Turkish dish to the German palate but he also turned the meal into a handheld snack for the Berliner-on-the-go. Two Turkish-born guest workers in Germany vie for the title of having “invented” the German doener.

Kadir Nurman – doener inventor no. 1

The most likely candidate to have “invented” the German doener is Kadir Nurman. In 1960 – at age 26 – Mr. Nurman left his native Turkey for Germany and worked as a guest worker for Daimler in Stuttgart. Six years later he moved to Berlin. In 1972, he set up a fast food stand near Berlin’s busy Zoo station and sold his first doeners. When he realized that busy Berliners prefer to take their meal with them rather than eat it at the stand, he turned his doeners into a moveable feast. He also invented the vertical rotating spit. His doener caught on and by the 1990s became a German fast food favorite. But because he never patented his inventions, Mr. Nurman did not profit from the doener’s success. Although his contribution as the inventor of the doener was officially recognized by the Association of Turkish Doener Manufacturers in 2011, Mr. Nurman died a poor man in 2013, living only on his meager social security income. http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/doener-erfinder-kadir-nurman-ist-tot-a-930140.html

Mehmet Ayguen – doener inventor no. 2

Mehmet Ayguen also claims to have invented the doener. Like Kadir Nurman, Mr. Ayguen was born in Turkey and immigrated to Germany. While both men had their start as poverty-stricken guest workers, Mr. Ayguen made good. He moved to Berlin in 1976. He was 16 years old. Initially, he drove a taxi, worked as a dishwasher and finally worked for Mr. Nurman at his doener stand (so says Mr. Nurman). At this point the assertions are getting foggy. Mr. Ayguen claims to have served his first doeners in 1971 at Hasir, his family’s restaurant in Berlin. He would have been 11 years old at the time and supposedly still lived in Turkey.

Whether he invented the doener or not, Mehmet Ayguen’s is a success story. He and his five brothers started as paupers and ended up as multi-millionaires in their country of choice. Today, the Ayguen brothers own eight restaurants and three hotels in Berlin as well as five hotels in Istanbul and a luxury resort somewhere else in Turkey. http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/mehmet-ayguen-das-berliner-hasir-imperium,10809148,22023380.html

 

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

 

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City Pissoir – Urinary Discrimination?

Monday, January 11th, 2016

When I focused my camera on the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtnis Kirche (Emperor Wilhelm Memorial Church) in Berlin’s city center, a shiny, ultramodern structure obstructed my view. The inscription above the frosted front door read, “City Pissoir.” A caricature on the door instantly reminded me of Manneken Pis, Brussels’ famous 1700s sculpture, and left no doubt that this contemporary edifice provided a terminus for urgent calls.

City Pissoir at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, Germany Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015. www.walled-in-berlin.com

City Pissoir at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, Germany
Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015. www.walled-in-berlin.com

What is a pissoir?

The term comes from the Middle French pisser, to urinate. And indeed, a pissoir is a French invention dating back to the mid-1800s. It is a structure that provides support and screening for public urinals without incurring the expense of constructing an enclosed building. Pissoirs were created to reduce the likelihood of urination onto sidewalks and buildings.

History of the Pissoir

In the 1700s, Paris was one of the dirtiest cities in Europe. People openly urinated in the street until the city’s major placed “barrels of easement” on all street corners. These barrels were meant to clean up the streets by clustering the problem in specific locations. Then in 1841, different fixtures took their place in Paris: Crude metal structures that sheltered public urinals. They were called pissoirs or pissotières. In 1850, Napoleon III commissioned Baron Georges-Eugene Haussman to install them throughout the city. By the 1930s, Paris counted about 1,200 of these structures.

Soon, other cities followed the example. In Berlin, the first pissoirs were erected in 1863. By the 1960s pissoirs started to fall out of fashion again, and in the 1980s the present-day Sanisette toilets were introduced in Paris. David Jaggard writes,” Sanisette toilets were developed by the same company that runs the Vélib bike rental system, JCDecaux (corporate motto: ‘From piddles to pedals’.”

Berlin’s City Pissoir

Berlin’s City Pissoir at the Breitscheidplatz is provided by the Wall AG, an International street furniture supplier and outdoor advertiser. It was installed in 2003. Made from power-coated aluminum panels and frosted safety glass, it is definitely high-tech. Motion sensors activate the flushing mechanism and the interior lighting. Motion sensors also activate the basin faucet so that users can wash their hands without having to touch the faucets. But guess what? Berlin’s City Pissoir is for men only, just like in the 1800s! The interior of Berlin’s City Pissoir is divided into urinal and lavatory compartments. A small drain hole is installed in the floor of the urinal section. Definitely not appealing to women. Shall we call this “urinary discrimination?”

Why a pissoir at the Breitscheidplatz?

As it turns out, the Breitscheidplatz where the City Pissoir and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche are located is not only popular with tourists. It also appeals to locals, particularly following a soccer game when the men have been drinking. According to Sylvia von Kekulè, pastor at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtsniskirche, men have lined up regularly along the church walls to relieve themselves. After having received many complaints from the pastor and surrounding businesses, the city of Berlin hired the Wall AG to install this shiny and free City Pissoir. The only complaint is that it doesn’t take women’s needs into account. http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/archiv/auf-dem-breitscheidplatz-steht-jetzt-ein-kostenloses-klo-nur-fuer-maenner,10810590,10097922.html

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

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Berlin’s Kammergericht – Appellate Court

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Most tourists visiting Berlin for the first time head for the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Radio Tower and a few other historic sites. A much less known gem is the 100-year-old Kammergericht (appellate court) in Berlin’s District of Schoeneberg. By the way, only Berlin’s Court of Appeals is known as the Kammergericht. All other German appellate courts are called Oberlandesgericht (High Court of Appeals).

Berlin's Kammergericht in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Berlin’s Kammergericht in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

History of the Kammergericht

Berlin’s Kammergericht is the oldest German court and the highest court of Berlin. It was established by the Electors of Brandenburg and first mentioned in 1468. Originally, it functioned as an arm of the royal court, but in 1735 it became an independent institution. At that time the Kammergericht moved into the Kollegienhaus in central Berlin, now the Jewish Museum. (also read www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/fallen-leaves-in-berlins-jewish-museum/) In the early 1900s, the court’s space requirements increased dramatically, and the Kammergericht moved into its own building in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park in the district of Schoeneberg. It first opened its doors in 1913.

All About Berlin’s Kammergericht – Appellate Court

As a result of the division of Berlin following World War II, the city ended up with two appellate courts. While East Berlin’s Kammergericht remained in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park, West Berlin’s appellate court moved to the district of Charlottenburg in 1949. In 1961, East Berlin abolished its Court of Appeals altogether. Following German reunification, the Kammergericht returned to the site in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park in 1992 and, once again, serves the entire city.

Division of Berlin into four sectors (1945 to 1990)

Division of Berlin into four sectors (1945 to 1990)

Features of Berlin’s Kammergericht building

Constructed from sandstone and basalt, the Kammergericht is a 5-story building with over 500 rooms. Its entrance faces the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park. Two stately colonnades frame the edifice. The imposing entrance hall extends through all floors. The building’s interior is richly decorated, each floor in a different color. Sculptures decorate the stairwells.

Interim Uses of the Kammergericht building

–During the Nazi period, the Volksgerichtshof (Peoples’ Court) was housed in this building, and it became the site of the show trials against the conspirators in the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944.

–Between 1945 and 1948, the building served as the headquarters of the Allied Control Council (Allierter Kontrollrat). The four Allied powers met in this building to discuss issues concerning the four German Occupation Zones. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/allied-control-council-governs-germany/ After the Soviets stomped out of the Control Council in 1948, the Allies no longer met.

–In September of 1971, ambassadors of the four Allies signed the Four Power Agreement on Berlin (Viermaechte-Abkommen ueber Berlin) in the building’s chambers.

–Until 1990, the Allied Air Safety Center (Allierte Luftsicherheitszentrale) was housed in this building.

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen Prison- Part 1

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Between 1951 and 1989 East Germany’s deeply feared State Security, the Stasi, operated a notorious political prison in Hohenschoenhausen. Located in Berlin’s northeastern district of Lichtenberg, some 40,000 political prisoners passed through the sprawling compound’s gates during its 38-year operation. Few people actually knew of the prison’s existence because the prison was located within a large, restricted military area and hermetically sealed-off from the outside world. It never even appeared on any East Berlin map. http://www.visitberlin.de/en/spot/gedenkstaette-berlin-hohenschoenhausen

History of Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen

In 1939, the Hohenschoenhausen compound was built as a canteen. In June 1945, at the conclusion of World War II, the Soviet Secret Police took over the area, transformed it into a detainment camp and called it Special Camp No. 3. During the winter of 1946-1947, the Soviets turned the camp into a prison and converted the cafeteria into an underground prison area.

Original Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen prison building, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Original Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen prison building, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

In 1951, the Ministry of State Security (Mfs) – better known as the Stasi – reopened the prison. In the late 50s, using prisoner labor, they added an additional building. It included 200 prison cells and interrogation rooms. The Stasi also converted the existing cafeteria. It became known as the “U-Boot” (submarine) among inmates because the Stasi applied water torture in some of its cells. Employing predominantly psychological torture to break the prisoners’ resistance and will, Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen functioned as a prison until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Most of the prisoners had tried to flee or emigrate from East Germany or had been persecuted due to their political views. The compound officially closed on October 3, 1990, the day of German reunification.

Expanded Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen prison building, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Expanded Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen prison building, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen Memorial

In 1995, the Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen Memorial (Gedenkstaette Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen) opened on the site of the former East German political prison. On the initiative of its former Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen inmates, the compound has become a registered memorial site. To help us comprehend the extent and methods of political persecution in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany), former prisoners conduct guided tours. In 2013, a museum opened as well. It displays close to 500 objects that tell the stories of those who were imprisoned here. The Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen Memorial is open year-round.

Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen Memorial from the outside, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen Memorial from the outside, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Read about my impressions of to Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen in next week’s blog. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlin-hohenschoenhausen-prison-part-2

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

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Wolfgang Vogel: East German Profiteer

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Not only capitalist societies spawn profiteers. During the Cold War, Wolfgang Vogel, largely unknown to the general public but known to many prominent figures, pulled strings in Moscow as effectively as in Washington. For three decades, he was an extremely successful communist profiteer. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/23/world/europe/23vogel.html?_r=0

Licensed to practice law in both East and West Berlin, Vogel was the “point man” between East and West Germany. He was central to the exchanges of more than 150 spies from 23 countries and the last hope for many emigrants from East Germany. He earned millions in the process

Wolfgang Vogel was central to the exchanges of more than 150 spies from 23 countries, photo www.dw.com

Wolfgang Vogel was central to the exchanges of more than 150 spies from 23 countries, photo www.dw.com

The life of Wolfgang Vogel

Born in 1925 in Lower Silesia (now Poland), Wolfgang Vogel studied law in Jena and Leipzig and passed the equivalent of the bar exam in 1949. In 1954, he began practicing law in East Berlin. Three years later, he gained the right to practice in West Berlin as well. The East German Ministry for State Security, known as the Stasi, employed Vogel to make contacts among West German lawyers and politicians. These contacts eventually helped him broker exchanges of spies captured by the West for political prisoners held by the East. Vogel died in Bavaria in 2008.

Wolfgang Vogel’s famed spy swaps

Wolfgang Vogel brokered some of the most famous spy swaps between East and West. In 1962, he was instrumental to negotiating the exchange of both, the American U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers and the American Ph.D. student Frederic L. Pryor for the Soviet KGB spy, Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher (also known as Rudolf Abel). The exchange inspired the 2015 movie, “Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks as James Donovan, Abel’s defense attorney, and Sebastian Koch as the East German attorney Wolfgang Vogel. For more information on Glienicke Bridge, visit http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/glienicker-bruecke-bridge-of-spies/

In 1981, Vogel negotiated the exchange of East German Stasi-agent Guenter Guillaume for Western agents captured by the Eastern bloc.

 In 1986, Wolfgang Vogel brokered the exchange of Israeli human rights activist and author Anatoly Shcharansky for Czech sleeper-agent Karl Koecher and his wife.

Wolfgang Vogel – the profiteer

Representing the East German leader Erich Honecker, Wolfgang Vogel not only helped facilitate East-West prisoner exchanges, he also negotiated the re-location of thousands of East Germans to the West. However, his assistance did not come cheap. He became a wealthy man in the process.

Between the 1950s and 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall), Wolfgang Vogel was an official “representative of the German Democratic Republic for humanitarian issues.” In that capacity, he “sold” 33,755 political prisoners to West Germany. Their value varied according to their profession, their “crime” and how well they were known in the West. He also reunited 215,019 families and individuals in line with to the East German government’s maxim, “Human relief against hard Deutschmark”. http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/wolfgang-vogel-tot-der-anwalt-zwischen-den-welten-1.692361 The family reunion-seekers were individuals who had been left behind when the Berlin Wall was erected in August 1961, or they were relatives of escapees or of those who had defected on business trips to the West. When these individuals turned to Vogel to obtain permission to emigrate, he was often able to negotiate the necessary permissions, provided these family reunion-seekers had private property to sell. Only then would Vogel locate buyers – for a fee, of course.

For his efforts, Wolfgang Vogel received benefits in cash and in kind. These benefits amounted to the equivalent of more than a half billion euros. http://www.welt.de/geschichte/article130633378/Darf-man-einen-Menschenhaendler-heiligsprechen.html At times, he earned half a million Deutschmark and more in just one year, practically tax-free. Still, Wolfgang Vogel saw himself as a humanitarian and a lawyer of the people. He said, “My ways were not white and not black; they had to be gray.”

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

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Comrade Lenin is back

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Twenty-four years after the 62-foot statue of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin was buried outside of Berlin, Germany, its granite head was unearthed this month and placed in a Berlin museum. Just last year, in August 2014, the Berlin senate had claimed that the giant statue was lost. At that time, authorities had maintained that they knew the general location of its burial place but had no records of the precise location. Digging up the entire pit, long overgrown with shrubs, to unearth Lenin’s head had seemed too costly an undertaking. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/21/berlin-giant-lenin-statue-lost

Who was Comrade Lenin?

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian communist revolutionary and politician. He played a senior role in the October Revolution of 1917. Under his administration the Russian Empire was dissolved and replaced by the Soviet Union. His political theories are known as Leninism. Admirers view him as a champion of working people’s rights and welfare. Critics see him as a dictator responsible for civil war and massive human rights abuses. In East Germany, Lenin was held up as a model communist.

Where was Comrade Lenin’s statue located?

Designed by Nikolai Tomsky, Lenin’s giant sculpture was originally located in Leninplatz (Lenin Square) in the Friedrichshain district of former East Berlin. A gift from the Soviet Union to East Germany, the monument was carved from Ukrainian red Kapustino granite. Three days before the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth it was unveiled before 200,000 guests. The celebration took place on 19 April 1970. Subsequently, in 1992, the square was renamed Platz der Vereinten Nationen (United Nations Square).

Lenin statue at Leninplatz, Berlin, photo Bundesarchiv, Germany

Lenin statue at Leninplatz, Berlin,
photo Bundesarchiv, Germany

Why was Comrade Lenin’s statue removed?

The East German government had commissioned the statue to express East Germany’s reverence for and gratitude toward Lenin. But following the fall of the Berlin Wall, many Germans wanted to get rid of Soviet symbols, and Berlin’s then mayor Eberhard Diepgen ordered the statue to be removed. Critics argued that the monument was part of the history of the neighborhood and should remain. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/09/10/a-giant-lenin-head-was-unearthed-in-germany/ Nonetheless, two years after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, demolition took place.

Since 1994, a bubbling fountain has taken the place of Lenin’s sculpture in the Platz der Vereinten Nationen (United Nations Square). Now, water bubbles from five roughly hewn granite boulders in a group of fourteen that grace the square.

Where was Comrade Lenin’s statue buried?

The demolition of Lenin’s statue began in November 1991 and took several months. It was split in 129 sections and buried in a sand pit at Seddinberg in the district of Treptow-Koepenick, a southeastern suburb of Berlin. It seemed that Lenin’s statue would remain buried forever until historians started campaigning for its excavation last year. When the Berlin government claimed not to know where exactly it was buried, Rick Minnich, a Berlin-based US filmmaker, stepped up. He told the media that he knew its precise location because he had it partially unearthed a few years earlier for his 1990 film, Good-bye, Lenin.

Where is Comrade Lenin’s head now?

On 10 September 2015, Lenin’s 3.5-ton granite head was transported from the Seddinberg sand pit to Berlin’s Spandau Zitadelle museum. It is scheduled to be the showpiece in the Zitadelle’s exhibition, “Berlin and its Monuments,” which will display more than 100 original Berlin monuments from the 18th century to the fall of the Wall. According to Berlin officials, Lenin’s head will remain the only part of the statue to be excavated. All other sections will remain buried.

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

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Zur letzten Instanz – Berlin Restaurant

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Zur Letzten Instanz” roughly translates to “The Last Resort.” It is the name of one of Berlin’s oldest restaurants, located in the heart of the city. If you want to try some authentic German food, put Zur Letzten Instanz on your list. The current owners bought the place after the Berlin wall fell. Their daughter manages it. Her brother is the cook. During the days of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the State owned the restaurant, and East Germans were not allowed to own businesses.

Zur Letzten Instanz is located in the Waisenstrasse 14-16, not far from the Alexanderplatz, the television tower and Berlin’s red City Hall. Supposedly, Napoléon rested by the restaurant’s tile stove. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev, last leader of the Soviet Union, enjoyed a beer here, and in 2003 German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder treated French president Jacques Chirac to a meal at Zur Letzten Instanz. http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/germany/berlin/restaurants/reviews/zur-letzten-instanz-35605

Zur Letzten Instanz – history

First documented in 1561, a residence housing two or three tenant families stood at this site. In 1621 a servant of the Great Elector opened a pub in its basement. The pub eventually turned into a restaurant. Over the years, the building changed hands several time, and the restaurant was renamed each time. Since 1924, it bears the name Zur Letzten Instanz.

During World War II, Zur Letzten Instanz was badly damaged. Then, in 1961, East Berlin authorities decided to reopen it to attract tourists. To increase the seating capacity, the original building and the two neighboring properties were taken down to their foundations, reconstructed and reopened in 1963. Unfortunately, most of the medieval elements and the historical layout of the original three buildings were essentially lost during reconstruction. But parts of the medieval city wall can still be seen in the back of the building. Zur Letzten Instanz currently seats up to 120 guests in its three dining room. The building includes eight hotel rooms with a total of thirteen beds as well as an apartment for the owners.

Zur Letzten Instanz – name

Zur Letzten Instanz owes its name to a court battle in the early 1900s. According to legend, two farmers fought a long-drawn-out litigation in the nearby courthouse. Unable to settle their differences in court, they took their dispute to the pub and reached an agreement over a glass of beer or two. For them, the pub became “the last resort.” Hence the name.

Zur Letzten Instanz – menu

The menu features authentic German cuisine and includes some Berlin specialties, such as Eisbein (pork knuckle). Each menu item is named after a legal procedure so that you might find menu items, such as “Beweismittel – Evidence” (cabbage roll with mashed potatoes and salad), “Kreuzverhoer – cross-examination” (calf’s liver with shallots, apples and mashed potatoes) or “Zeugen-Aussage – witness testimony” pork knuckle with sauerkraut, pureed split peas and smoked bacon.

Guten Appetit – Bon Appetit – Enjoy Your Meal

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

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Cold War Spy Tunnel under Berlin

Monday, July 27th, 2015

During the height of the Cold War, US and British Intelligence Services constructed a secret spy tunnel under Berlin, just twenty feet beneath the surface. The project was known as “Operation Gold” in US Intelligence circles and as “Operation Stopwatch” among their British counterparts. The plan involved tapping into Eastern Europe’s communication cables. The spy tunnel was to serve the western Allies as an early warning system by keeping them abreast of Soviet military intentions in Europe. Spying operations were far from unusual during the Cold War. The Soviets were tapping a cable that served the American garrison in Berlin. It was located near Potsdam.

Spy Tunnel Construction

To be able to listen in on Soviet conversations, US and British Intelligence Services constructed a 1,476-foot long spy tunnel from a point in the West Berlin district of Rudow to Altglienicke in East Berlin’s district of Treptow. Construction of the tunnel was a major engineering feat. One of the cables was located only 27 inches beneath the surface and along the edge of a major highway. http://www.coldwar.org/articles/50s/berlin_tunnel.asp

The tunnel tube segments were constructed in the British sector of the divided city, at Airport Gatow . By May 1955 the first cable tap took place. Wire-tapping continued for eleven months. During that time, the Western Allies listened to close to 443,000 calls, which were recorded on 50,000 tapes. http://www.faqs.org/espionage/Ba-Bl/Berlin-Tunnel.html – ixzz3cz0f2d1YThree hundred specialists were involved in transcribing the tapes in London and Washington.

Spy Tunnel Discovery

Then the big surprise! The Soviets had known about this top-secret operation since inception. A mole in the British Secret Intelligence, who had been involved in the project from the beginning, had alerted the KGB of the CIA’s plans. The double agent’s name was George Blake. To protect his identity, the KGB kept knowledge of the tunnel close to their vests and did not even alert Soviet authorities of its existence.

Eleven months into the wire tapping, the Soviets claimed to have discovered the spy tunnel and turned its “discovery” into a successfully orchestrated propaganda blitz. Over the next six months, they carted around 30,000 “deserving” East German citizens to the entrance of the tunnel (Geheime Orte in Berlin by Claus-Dieter Steyer, © 2014) and pointed to America as a nation of warmongers and to West Berlin as a breeding ground for espionage. The Soviets used the discovery of the spy tunnel to demonstrate the effectiveness of socialist security.

Spy Tunnel Segment in Allied Museum

A 7-foot segment of Berlin’s spy tunnel can still be seen in the Allied Museum at Clayallee 135 in Berlin’s District of Zehlendorf. The segment was unearthed in 1997.

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

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