Berlin - A City That Bleeds History

I recently went on a short trip to Berlin with my partner. Originally we’d intended to go visit some friends, but due to miscommunication on both sides they were actually not in the country at the time which meant we had plenty of free time to be complete tourists and go to lots of museums.

Ampelmann GM58 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 Ampelmann in East Berlin, GM58 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Near the end of the holiday my partner asked me what my favourite thing in Berlin had been and I struggled to think of any one thing. After some thought I concluded it was the city as a whole - the whole place bleeds history. Berlin has arguably been at the centre of Western history for almost the past 100 years. It has borne witness to the worst of humanity and has the scars to prove it. Even though the wall came down, even though the Nazis were defeated, history cannot be unwritten. From just walking around there are constant reminders of the history of the city and the country as a whole. I feel this still has a profound impact on the German national character.

Veryl Goodnight: The Day the Wall Came Down

With the rise of the alt-right and the right-wing populism in a America and Western Europe there have been questions asked such as “Is is OK to punch a Nazi?” and “Is de-platforming right-wing extremists an affront to Freedom of Speech” - topics which those who are more eloquent than me have talked about at length. We’ve also seen rhetoric from our politicians and journalists that does seem to echo the sort that was seen during the rise of the Nazis, and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t troubling.

I realise of course that I may have Godwinned myself here. I should caveat that I don’t believe we are on the verge of a fascist dictatorship just yet. What we’re seeing is a reminder of what Theodor W. Arno showed in the 40s - protofascism and authoritarianism are surprisingly common personality traits. But having been to Berlin and explored the city’s history, events such as politicians talking about scrapping human rights legislation to facilitate fighting terrorism and contemporary attacks on the judiciary become especially disquieting.

Berlin is a city that has been down that path, it knows where it ends, and won’t be forgetting it any time soon.