*This is the third of four writings exploring how art builds community locally and internationally. Interdisciplinary collaborations create new connections. While current political leaders debate the validity of facts, artists unite, and support truth.
Berlin’s distinct dedication to the arts can be found in street graffiti to grand architecture. Every detail and expression is deliberate and unapologetic. History is a constant reminder and teachable moment. The good along with bad reinforces creative expression and truth. Perhaps, the “lessons learned” can be exported to America as part of an intervention?
Case in point is the East Side Gallery: a 1316 meters (4317 feet) long mural painted on a remnant of the Berlin Wall. Visitors packed the sidewalk in effort to partake in selfie activity and appreciation. Section by section, over hundred artists have reclaimed and created paintings on its surface. Dmitri Vrubel’s My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love was a crowd favorite. Highlights included Hervé Morlay’s Amour, Paix, Thomas Klingenstein’s Detour To The Japanese Sector, Ines Bayer’s There are many Walls to remove, and Gruppen Stellvertretende Durstende’s Color Carryover.
Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin was flooded with international tourists. The location marked a time and place of divisiveness and isolation. According to HISTORY.com: “Checkpoint Charlie was first set up in August 1961, when communist East Germany erected the Berlin Wall to prevent its citizens from fleeing to the democratic West…Even more important was that it was the only gateway where East Germany allowed Allied diplomats, military personnel and foreign tourists to pass into Berlin’s Soviet sector. In response, the United States, France and Britain stationed military police at Checkpoint Charlie to ensure their officials had ready access to the border.”
Almost sixty years later, the concept of building walls continues.
Entering the Topographie Des Terrors forces one to confront the past. The Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre echoed with meticulously organized exhibits including Topography of Terror: Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office on Wilhelm- and Prinz-Albrecht-Straße. The historic site was filled with groups of teachers and students asking questions and confronting humanity. A familiar name and photo appeared: Sophie Scholl.
Ms. Scholl died on February 22, 1943 at the young age of twenty-one in Stadelheim Prison in Germany. Her crime was high treason against the government. While attending the University of Munich, Sophie was part of a group called the White Rose. The organization represented resistance against Hitler and handed out anti-Natzi leaflets.
As evening descended in Berlin, the day delivered contemporary highlights of art and history. Next destination would be the Berliner Fernsehturm, the tallest structure in Germany at 368 meters or 1207 feet tall. From the tower’s website: “In the 1960s, the GDR government arranged to have the TV Tower built at its current location, with the aim of demonstrating the strength and efficiency of the socialist system in mind. Today the Tower defines the silhouette of Germany’s capital city – a symbol of the reunified Germany, just like the Brandenburg Gate.” The view was a surreal urban landscape from a dream.
Sophie Scholl’s words repeated in my mind: “Stand up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone.”