September 2005: I am alone, walking around a huge, open-air urban museum, with darkness descending and cold setting in. Berlin has been re-built in the years after the wall, and I am visiting the city for the first time and expecting to find it cold and clinical, a city that has covered over the traces of its disturbed past. Instead, there are fissures and cracks everywhere; the job is only half-complete, and no one seems to mind. In the daytime, the reconstructed German parliament building looked imposing, a projection of the brash confidence of this reborn country. At night, in the eerie quiet of the almost deserted city centre, it looks faded and fragile. There is hardly anybody around.
September 2005: It’s getting really dark now, and I am starting to get lost. I have walked through the Holocaust Memorial, and back up to the site of the old royal palace. The Bebelplatz, where the book burning took place, is a hundred yards away. On the other side of the bridge stand the city’s museums, huddled together in solidarity, wounds tightly bound. I sense a crowd gathering behind me. They would like to apologise, to explain, to undo, but are silenced by the vivid evidence of their own destructive power. What’s done is done. I turn around. There is no-one there.
|Micha Ullman's memorial to the book burning in the Bebelplatz. |