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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

A Good Monday Political Tour in Berlin

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | August 31st, 2010 | Comments No Comments

Mauermuseum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie (www.mauermuseum.de)is an exhausting, cramped tour of artifacts relating to the Wall (the Mauer), to its guards and to East Berliners who crossed it illegally. There is little historical or political context to the exhibits, so visit the informative display of murals on Zimmerstrasse, just outside and to the right of the museum. Displaying photos and history (in English, too), the large panels are the size of the Wall and run the Wall’s former course.
Checkpoint Charlie

Between the murals and the museum is Checkpoint Charlie, with a couple of Germans dressed as soldiers posing with tourists for photos. In spite of its potential for camp, it’s a moving place to stand. It’s the exact location of the tank standoff in 1961 between the Soviets and the Americans that precipitated the building of the Wall.

The Museum is open daily and costs a whopping € 12.50 (about $15). (The Museum Pass is not valid here.)
Checkpoint Charlie Museum
Topography of Terror exhibit (www.topographie.de) is a panoramic outdoor display of German political history from the Weimar Republic to today. Detailing the extensive unemployment and economic depression in the 1930s that helped propel Hitler into power and the systematic extermination of political opponents first, then the disabled, then Gypsies, then gays, then Jews, then German resisters, the exhibit outlines the insidious history that still permeates Berlin.

From the pre-WWII silencing to the post-Wall protests, the exhibit lies in the shadow of the only existing strip of the original Wall. Free, open daily.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Denkmal für die emordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, www.stiftung-denkmal.de) is an outdoor city-block of coffin-sized cement blocks to represent the murdered Jews. It’s an impressive maze that overwhelms for its sheer size. An accompanying museum (free, open every day except Mondays) further emphasizes the sheer mass of people murdered. Poland, for example, was the place where more than half of the 6 million Jews were killed. Exhibits on each of the concentration camps blink through a silent slide show. Biographies of each of the exterminated Jews is solemnly read in one room. Eyewitness accounts from letters and diaries shine on coffin-sized displays in another. Representative family histories dominate another room. From Greece to Denmark, Jews’ trails to Auschwitz and other camps are traced. It’s a meaningful, sobering stop between the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie.
Berlin Bomb Shelter
Anti-Kriegs-Museum, the Anti-War Museum (www.anti-kriegs-museum.de) is located in an otherwise nondescript area of Berlin. The highlight of the museum, which exhibits a lot of antique war stuff (e.g., guns, bombs, gas masks, etc.) with descriptions in German only, is the building’s actual bomb shelter. Creeping down to the claustrophobic space that theoretically sheltered 30 people, I was transported back to the uncertain days when “shelter captains” took roll call at each raid to determine who was missing. Free, open daily.
Berlin Bomb Shelter
Tip: The Checkpoint Charlie Museum sells a city map that traces the former route of the Wall for about € 3. It’s the exact same map available for free at most hotels.
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