Friday, 5 February 2016

Berlin's (hi)story

I've studied much about Germany, from secondary school history classes to the comparative politics lectures in university - about the fragility of the Weimar Republic, about the pursuits of Nazi Germany during the Second World War, about the Berlin wall that divided the country into two, about the long-sought-after reunification, and about the mettle of the first female chancellor.

About a year ago, I finally got the chance to visit this country that I've learned about for years - the city of Berlin, specifically. The emphasis on history surely wasn't like what I had expected from the textbooks. Unlike the other European cities, it struck an entirely different chord with me. Rome and Athens seemed to be embracing their histories, flaunting to the world what's left of their ruins, and placing monetary value on every possible place of interest. Huge chunks of land were left untouched, in the name of historic preservation. Berlin seemed reticent about it. She did not charge us, curious travellers, a single cent for patronising (most of) its history. Rather than taking the centre stage, the historic sites seemed to serve as an unpretentious backdrop to the every day lives of conscientious Germans. Apart from the sporadic areas of rich history, every (other) inch of land seemed to be indulging in a process of transformation. (Or maybe, it's just my overambitious imagination...)

I guess, it is probably because it's not something that they are proud of. Aren't we, humans, like that too? A bad mistake from the past is not something that we are eager to put on display. While we may admit to it, we at the same time strive towards the opposite direction. We aim for progress, to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. I guess that's what Germany - Berlin - left me with. A city, and a country, that is racing towards the future, while delicately remembering its history. In remembrance of the murdered jews. 

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