Yesterday we walked from the Holocaust Memorial to the Topography of Terror, on to Checkpoint Charlie and then to the Jewish Museum in Kreuzberg.
The Holocaust Memorial features 2,711 concrete slabs or ‘stelae’ of varying heights in memory of the murdered Jews of Europe. It’s a block from the Brandenburg Gate and can be visited anytime. The ground isn’t flat so there’s an undulating effect when you look down the rows. Small easy-to-miss signs ask visitors to be quiet and respectful. A group of French school kids were playing hide and seek when we visited.
We then walked about 1 km to the outdoor grounds of the Topography of Terror. On the way double lines of bricks embedded in the road and footpaths mark the location of the former East-West divide. At the Topography site, a chronological display of photos and news clippings hangs alongside a long ominous brick wall in a pit parallel to a remnant of the old Berlin Wall. The story tells the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party to power in 1933 and the subsequent rapid oppression of Jews, Communists and other resistance within Germany. A stand-out quote for me was an Archbishop saying the acts against the Jews were so unchristian that any Christian, not just priests, should oppose what was happening.
Checkpoint Charlie is about 700 metres away past pizza joints and bars. It marks the Cold War entry point to the US sector of West Berlin. A replica sentry box is ‘guarded’ by two guys in WWII American uniforms who encourage photos with tourists. The site is surrounded by Charlie themed shops and cafes. McD’s and KFC are diagonal to each other with CC in the middle.
From Checkpoint Charlie we walked about 10 minutes to the Jewish Museum. The museum features empty spaces that evoke the impact of the Holocaust with an emphasis on the void it created in the Jewish population. In one part the effects of red lights, spot lights and mirrors work in with shadows and narrow light beams from windows in the high vertical grey concrete walls.
Walking up the long sloping corridor we came to a narrow hall called the Memory Void where the floor is covered in thousands of steel plates. Each plate has a unique simple face. The work, ‘Shalekhet’ or ‘Fallen Leaves’, is by Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman. When walked across, the plates ring out in metallic chimes that echo in the quiet concrete chamber as they clank and crush against each other. It was eery and soulful.