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  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Indelible memory of Kennedy's speech in Berlin

    A pair of slippers awaits visitors at the entrance of a cozy two-room apartment in Berlin's Westend district -- the kind one might expect in one of Berlin's many old palaces and villas. But those looking for any valuable antiques here will be disappointed. Instead, every inch of wall space is covered with old photographs. The centerpiece of the collection is a black-and-white shot of John F. Kennedy waving from an open limousine.The day Werner Eckert took the snapshot is still vividly engrained in his mind. It was one of the most influential events of the 81 year old's life. On June 26, 1963, the 35th American president came to visit West Berlin in a demonstration of solidarity with the people living in the divided city."There was never anyone like Kennedy before," Eckert says, recalling the visit. "You had a feeling you could immediately become friends with him. He may have been the most powerful man in the world, but his charisma immediately made you lose any reservations."...

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Jens F. Laurson and George Pieler: Trying To Make History In Berlin, Obama Fed The Germans Platitudes

    Jens F. Laurson and George Pieler are contributors to Forbes.He didn’t call himself a jelly doughnut (neither did JFK actually, but let’s ignore that), but President Obama fell right into the I-must-make-history trap in his Brandenburg Gate speech. The problem is that the relevant history already has been made, as the President pointed out himself. Mr. Obama rightly lauded the determination of Germans to achieve their human aspirations as the reason the Wall no longer stands, but he confused the lessons of the postwar German recovery and the Cold War itself.It is interesting that President Obama thought it important that he spoke from the eastern side of the plaza, and emphasized the efforts of East Germans to break through the wall. Well, yes, they were the ones confined by it. But all Germans were punished for the continuing western presence in Berlin through severe restrictions on movements east-west, and by forced separation of families, friends, and colleagues.

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Secret photos of Hitler's bunker

    Robert Conrad knew things could get uncomfortable. There were the guards, the explosions, the dark tunnels. He could easily stumble across a detonation in progress, run into a policeman or even land himself in jail.And yet, in the summer of 1987, Conrad donned a construction worker's coverall and a hardhat and hid his camera, a Praktica model with a 35-millimeter wide-angle lens, in a leather shoulder bag of the type carried by many workers in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) at the time. To lend his disguise verisimilitude, Conrad made sure a Thermos jug could be seen poking out of his bag. He wanted to be absolutely sure to look just like any normal construction worker.Thus disguised, the photographer snuck up to the fence around the construction site on Berlin's Otto Grotewohl Strasse and climbed over the barrier. Once inside, he had to suppress the impulse to start running. "I walked very slowly across the site, as if on eggshells, so no one would notice me," he recalls. Conrad was uneasy. Where was the entrance into this underworld of dark concrete ruins that had been buried for decades under Berlin's streets? Would he be able to climb down into the infamous "Führer's bunker," where Adolf Hitler shot himself in April 1945?...

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Berlin show offers a glimpse of the history of Uruk, pioneering metropolis in present-day Iraq

    BERLIN — Berlin’s Pergamon Museum is offering visitors a glimpse of perhaps the world’s first real metropolis in a new exhibition that traces the long history of Uruk, in present-day Iraq.Artifacts, including clay masks of demons, figurines of rulers, limestone ducks used as weights, a prism listing Sumerian kings and clay vessels used as water pipes, grace the exhibition “Uruk — 5,000 Years of the Megacity.” They date back as far as the 4th millennium B.C.The show marks a century of excavations at Uruk in which German experts have played a prominent part. But even now, organizers say, less than 5 percent of the sprawling site in the Iraqi desert about 260 kilometers (160 miles) south of Baghdad has been explored.Michael Eissenhauer, the director of Berlin’s city museums, said Wednesday the exhibition aims to illustrate the importance of Uruk, “the first identifiable major city in the history of mankind” — believed to have had about 40,000 inhabitants in the 4th millennium B.C. and city walls more than 9 kilometers (5 1/2 miles) long....

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Berlin Wall section removed despite protests

    Construction workers backed by German police have removed a section of the Berlin Wall to make way for a building project, despite calls for the historic site to be preserved.Residents expressed shock at the removal of the East Side Gallery, as that section is known, which followed a series of protests, including one attended by the actor David Hasselhoff.A police spokesman, Alexander Tönnies, said there were no incidents as work had begun at about 5am to take down four sections of the wall, each about 1.2 metres wide, to make way for an access route to the planned high-rise luxury flats along the Spree river....

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Jewish Museum asks questions about living history

    "Do Jews have big noses?", "Are they particularly business savvy?", "Can you make jokes about the Holocaust?", "Is 'Jew' a curse word?"Seconds after visitors have stepped through the sliding doors and into the exhibition space at Berlin's Jewish Museum, they are confronted by these and other often equally disquieting questions, beamed onto the floor in front of them.They were collected from comments in the 800 visitors' books the museum has compiled since it opened in 2001, and whittled down to 32 of the most frequently asked, to form the backbone of its latest show, The Whole Truth – What You've Always Wanted to Know About Jews (but might have been too afraid to ask, the title could have added)....

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