Sunday, May 12, 2013

Berlin...the city of wonderful theater and an incredible amount of inspiration!

Hello! I meant to blog earlier but you know, Berlin sort of happens...constantly! This might be a long post, so fair warning. I'll try not to jump around too much. 

Janet scored four tickets to a sold-out production of "Peter Pan" put on by the Berliner Ensemble. Shelby is sitting across from me also blogging about the same show (we went with Janet and Stephanie). The Berliner Ensemble preforms at Brecht's theater, and it was beautiful. The show itself was amazing. It was based off the original 1902 text, and it was directed by Robert Wilson. (Side note: I love Robert Wilson. I saw Einstein on the Beach (a five-hour opera from Philip Glass and Bob Wilson) when it was in Ann Arbor and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only do I like Peter Pan, I was really excited to see it from a director like Wilson, who has a very unique style.) The show was very ascetically pleasing and the acting was great (particularly Tinkerbell who had a very chaotic, spastic manner and was played by a man). The music, which was written specifically for the Berliner Ensemble's production, was haunting, beautiful, funny, and a little disturbing. 

I didn't take this, but here is Tinkerbell from the show.
As I wrote earlier, I didn't have any specific expectations for this trip. It's proving to be a motivating experience. I'm excited to get back to school in the fall and continue studying German...but being here in Berlin/Germany (where "history is everywhere and history is nowhere") I am learning what it means to study German, and the language is only the foundation. 

After our Thursday tour with Janet's good friend Carol, I have been thinking a lot about how Berlin is memorializing and commemorating Germany's history and its victims. The quote I used above is true, and almost obviously so. History is everywhere in Berlin because of the buildings that once played host to groups such as the SS, the pieces of the Berlin Wall that one can find fairly easily, and the bullet holes on the sides of buildings, in addition the many memorials and antimemorials. Similarly, history is nowhere because of these events and people that warrant such memorialization. Germany, and Berlin, has destroyed and been destroyed. Berlin is being rebuilt (literally, there is construction almost everywhere). It is a wonderful process to witness a city learning to trust itself again. 

Learning about Berlin, and Germany as a whole, coming to terms and facing their history has opened me up to a more universal idea of trust. There is (to me, though I have been here for five days and still feel like I am only on the surface of Berlin) very little feeling of shying away and no absence of taking responsibility. 

The Germans killed Jews, among others.
The Nazis were murderers.

I don't know when to use the term "Germans" and when to use "Nazis" in this sense. Many Jews were German, too. Using the term "Germans" when talking about the responsible party in the Holocaust (which truthfully is everyone who beared witness, whether minutes away or miles away) feels wrong. I have to learned to love, or have started to learn to love, German. This includes the language, but the accompanying culture (which Berlin constantly reminds me is ever changing) and way of life. There is an atmosphere here that feels very natural to me.

And in this way, I feel sorry for Germany. I want this country to find an honest trust in itself and its future. I don't know what this sympathy says about me, but I am being honest. I was raised loosely Christian. I have no hereditary ties to the Holocaust and my emotions towards it come from the incredible and universal state of being human and disgusted. 

Does this make me, or my sense of entitlement towards responsibility we have now in learning and reflecting on history, delusional  Where is my place in this process, as a woman, as a student, and as an American? As human?

I have been searching for a clear reason as to why I love Berlin. Something I can put simply in an email to my parents––something that makes sense to people other than myself. Though there are certainly many reasons I love Berlin (and care for it), there is one reason that is incredibly humbling and grounding. Berlin is honest. 

There is no hiding from who the Nazis murdered, and certainly no hiding from the path bystanders laid for the Nazis. There are no excuses.

I have been here for a little over four days. Perhaps this amount of reflection is premature, but I don't write what I'm writing in defense of Berlin, or of the Germans. I write this with hope for progress, and from a place of educated compassion.


(Here are some random photos...)

Detroit Airport

In Berlin...finally!

First Breakfast

Germany does breakfast correctly.

Stephanie being tired

Our apartment!

Our apartment!

Our apartment!

Brandenburger Tor

Group on a tour with the wonderful Carol

These are found all over Berlin.

Billy at lunch in Prenzlauer Berg (my new favorite area in Berlin)

Unter den Linden

Unter den Linden


Late breakfast at Unter den Linden

Me and Jakob being me and Jakob

Caprese Salad at a wonderful Italian restaurant

One of the many amazing stores in Berlin

Journaling in Schöneberg

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