Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Berliner Luft

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Greetings from Berlin, one of the world's most exciting cities, weather permitting. We have just finished a week here working, visiting family and friends, and enjoying as much of the "Berliner Luft" (ambiance) as time permitted.  And on the rainy weekend, we visited a few of the city's great museums which now total more than 200. (  Five of the major ones are located on the Museum Island which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site ( 

On Saturday we spent several hours in two extremely thought-provoking museums -- the Jewish Museum ( and the open-air, Topography of Terror Museum (,,5545090,00.html). A large part of the former focuses on Jewish life in Germany before WW II and on the important roles Jews played in business, education, culture and entertainment in Berlin.  Later segments were on the great hope Jews had in the early days of the Weimar Republic when everyone was declared equal; and then how badly things turned against the Jews as Hitler rose to power. 

The Topography of Terror Museum contains panel after panel of documents, with analysis, on the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.  A major focus is on the organizations the Nazis used to control the population and to carry out Hitlers policies and programs. Many of these organizations were headquartered near what is now the museum.  Several analytical quotes on the museum panels make one realize that such a horror could happen again if we don't stay vigilant.  For example:

"The theoretical element played only a secondary role in the SS.  The essential connecting element was, instead, a certain mentality.  Thus SS training consisted of influencing the men's mentality: by the way they did their service, their communal life, jargon and the like.  In this way the SS man learned the attitude of a warrior for war's sake; unquestioning obedience;hardness as hardening himself, including against any human empathy; contempt for the inferior and arrogance towards all those who did not belong to the Order; comradeship and camaraderie; that there can be no such thing as the 'impossible.'  And then there were the simplified and absolute notions of the enemy: 'the Jew,' 'Boshevism,' the 'eastern Untermensch." 
Hans Bucheim, Historian, 1967.

Although my wife is from Bavaria (which has had a long rivalry with Prussia), we love Berlin and visit it often during annual personal trips to Germany. One can never get enough of the Berliner Luft.