May 21, 2013 by anelim
Berlin, at night, is a beautiful, clunky city. I imagine from the air when dusk sets, the city lights spread open like a vine, dark buildings turning a multitude of colours. I think of Berlin as a dazzling industrial grid, a hymnbook of history, and of love and life and blood. And dotted throughout are the established citizens who know something of sadness.
When you stroll through Berlin, occasionally by a building entrance, you’ll come across small bronze plaques in the pavement. On them read the names of those who were taken from that building, the year in which they were taken, the concentration camp they were sent to, and the year in which they died. These are not imposing memorials, and being underfoot they are easily missed. The idea is to stumble upon them. They bring you into sharp focus and take you from the trivial daydream and into the reality of past horrors. Sometimes, when finding one at my feet, it felt as though at that exact moment, there was nowhere else I was meant to be but gazing at those names etched in bronze.
I found this experience unlike the Jewish Memorial, with its stone blocks arranged methodically into grids. The Jewish Memorial is all around you. And the deeper you go into it, the further from society you are. Stone surrounds you and the city quietens to a hum, to a silence. The ambiance here is constructed. Your world is constructed. It is peaceful as it is painful.