This last week I made a long delayed trip to the city of Berlin. I was originally meant to go on a school trip in 1965. Unfortunately some 6 weeks prior to departure I ran into the back of a car on my bike and badly broke my leg. So nearly 50 years later, I finally set foot in Berlin.
I found a lovely city bearing the marks of a long and varied history. We enjoyed a tour of the Bundestag which had witnessed the first flowering of German democracy with the abdication of the Kaiser in 1918 and its crushing by the Nazi Party.
The architecture of the city gave witness to an era of religious and social tolerance. In the early 18th century, in a time of religious persecution elsewhere in Europe, the Prussia of Frederick the Great welcomed those forced to flee their homelands – French Hugenots, Russian Jews, Roman Catholics fleeing other German states – were all welcomed into what was a Lutheran state with Frederick building churches and synagogues for all groups.
The city also bears the marks of its more recent troubled past. A double line of cobble stones set in the road marks the line of the infamous Berlin Wall that divided the city for so many years – with over 200 people meeting their deaths as they attempted to cross it. The memorials of the Holocaust, the potmarked buildings bear witness to that era of madness that was the 3rd Reich and the devastation of the city in the final battle for Berlin that saw 85% of the city reduced to rubble.
At their height these Kingdoms of near satanic darkness seemed to stand supreme, triumphant. Now all that is left of them is a double line of cobblestones in the street and memorials to the victims of their monstrous terror and a society determined never to see their like again.