“Here the past was everywhere… A whole continent covered in memories…”
The former glorious capital of Germany lay in ruins… A bombed out shell forming an ugly scar against the bleak grey sky of post war Berlin. A city where mad men once dreamt of conquering the world and a city that had been promised a future of never ending riches now sank back into its smouldering foundations as starving shell shocked faces looked out from their hiding places…
The guns now fell silent as the Russian tanks swept ominously through the streets. Berlin’s post war fate was to be divided up between the victorious powers… The west was to be controlled by Britain, America and France… An island of democracy in a sea of Soviet red. The east was to be placed in the power of the Russian’s whose eye was now firmly fixed on the west.
As tensions rose, the pseudo-war between the east and west started to heat up as relationships became freezing cold… In a physical act of defiance against the west, a wall was hastily constructed right through the heart of Berlin and the east was closed off from the west.
The people of Berlin who had once been promised the world suddenly found themselves torn apart from loved ones and friends as they were shut away from the west and began a new life beyond the Iron Curtain. In the place of a tyrannical fascist leader came a new tyrant… Only this one masked his evil deeds behind the name of ‘communism’.
There was to be no Germania… Berlin; the proposed imperial capital of the world lay isolated in a world foreign to those in the west… It’s great streets were demolished to make way for concrete bombastic soviet tower blocks… The Brandenburg Gate, The symbol of Berlin, stood amongst the rubble of Pariser Platz left to rot and decay behind the grey concrete wall.
For over 40 years a wall ran through Berlin splitting it in two… In 1989 as the Cold War began to thaw, the wall suddenly came down… Familes torn apart were reunited… The eastern grip on the city was released and in the place of drab military marches, a concert was held at the Brandenburg Gate celebrating the re-unification of east and west Berlin.
Despite almost 30 years of being reunited, the pain is still palpable in Berlin. While the city has stitched itself back together on the surface; beneath this veneer of cool and grit lies an unmistakable sadness. A sadness of what was lost in the war and then never rebuilt. A sadness for the families torn apart. A sadness for those 40 years that were stolen from so many. A sadness for the atrocities that took place here.
This is not meant as a stain on the city, but instead rather a key stitch in the tapestry of the cities soul and part of what makes it the place it is today.
In the place of hatred and isolation has sprung a culture of open tolerance and liberalism. In the places where Nazi and Soviet flags once flew are messages of hope… Hope for a brighter future for the world and all those inhabit it. Berlin has been through hell and I for one hope that the underlying sadness of the place never fully leaves… For when we forget what the horrors of war and dictatorships are, we end up repeating our earlier mistakes.
Only the dead have seen the end of war… But in Berlin it’s the memories of the dead that give us our greatest hope in trying to avoid another…