Culture of Remembrance in Berlin

20.03.2012, 16:05
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The history of Berlin is layered with epochs. Thomas Flierl, a journalist and culture scholar, talked about the significance of the 20th century history in Berlin’s city culture.

Since the fall of the Wall both the Eastern and Western parts of Berlin experienced social transitions and massive changes. Over the last twenty years Berlin gained an extraordinary international attractiveness as a city in transition. With more young creative people moving to Berlin, the population is no longer classified as East or West.

The state, citizens’ initiatives, project work and public institutions made considerable efforts to reposition the unified Germany within the national and international context and strongly influenced the culture of remembrance in Berlin.

History can be found everywhere in the urban area of Berlin, in all public places— museums, memorial sites, monuments, works of art, memorial signs). The main focus of the official state culture of remembrance is the two political systems of authoritarian rule in Germany  National Socialism and State Socialism of the Soviet origin in the GDR. These historical footprints are commemorated with the help of specific institutions of historical research and political education.

Both art objects and institutions in Berlin often tell more about the times and circumstances of why they were put there, than about the events or people they are meant to commemorate. The difference between precise historical events and their interpretations, the disconnections and contradictions in the narrative is exactly what brings history back to life and provokes public debate.

Thomas Flierl suggests several points on how to reflect upon history, form a narrative and communicate the memory to the public:

— Ensure the plurality of stakeholders, i.e. a comprehensive combination of public institutions, project groups and initiatives of the people who were affected;

 Use temporary and discursive formats in the urban space for discovering and marking historical sites;

— Develop city tours based on themes that would link up in certain places and mark the separation between everyday life and terror (here Thomas notes his astonishment of finding out about a transit camp next to Gorky Park);

— Avoid a fixed narrative, mark disconnections, superimpositions of different historical events and perspectives;

— Develop a culture of remembrance as a contribution to a non-partisan communicative self-understanding of society.