Magazine article History Today

From the Editor

Magazine article History Today

From the Editor

Article excerpt

Berlin is a fascinating city for anyone with an interest in history, a view confirmed by a recent visit there after a long gap. The fount of much of the worst of the 20th century and, in 1989, witness to one of its most stirring events, Berlin has, over the past 20 years, realigned itself both politically and topographically--a city famously divided is slowly reverting to its original, pre-Nazi contours, with the great sights and squares between the Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz its centre once again.

Despite its obvious prosperity, embodied in the shiny corporate glamour of Potsdamer Platz and the gleaming car showrooms of Unter den Linden, parading the fruits of German technological brilliance and global purchasing power- Mercedes, Volkswagen, Audi and foreign acquisitions such as Bugatti and Bentley- Berlin spares the visitor little of its pain in confronting the past.

The Topography of Terror, redesigned and reopened last year, is a case in point. Located next to one of the few remaining fragments of the Berlin Wall, this vast museum is built upon the foundations of what used to be the Gestapo Headquarters in a part of the city once dominated by Hitler's Chancellery. Across the street stands the monumental complex of Goring's Air Ministry, the lone survivor from this period, now home to the sober German Finance Ministry. Once within the stark interior of the Topography of Terror the visitor is assaulted with images, testimonies and descriptions of the appalling endeavours of the 1930s and 1940s. It crossed my mind that this brutal self-flagellation is itself born of the same desire for purification, of one kind or another, that gave impetus to National Socialism. But that would be unfair; this excavation of Germany's past is brilliantly done and its lessons constantly reiterated and acted upon, not least in the Federal Republic's economic stance. …

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