The Memoryscape of Berlin: How Political Theory and Turmoil Shaped a City


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Type of Work


Hood College Art and Archaeology


Hood College Departmental Honors

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Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States


Entering the new era of a reunified Germany, the westernized German government needed Berlin to represent the new direction the country was headed in. However, the city’s tumultuous history could not be completely overwritten overnight. Growing insistence for public discussion of the Nazi Regime showed the German people’s desire to come to terms with their nation’s history. The public pushed for preservation of hard truths represented by Nazi ruins, instead of erasing their existence. Referred to as Erinnerungskultur, this process of confrontation has become an essential component of German society. The reunified German government faced an extremely complex question: how to promote Berlin as a democratic stronghold, without destroying/covering up the remains of its past. This issue is further complicated by the Cold War: both “Berlins” had existing stylistic traditions that represented directly conflicting political ideals. To address this crisis of image, the federal government developed unique approaches to individual structures and buildings. Some buildings, like the Reichstag, were refurbished and reopened. Others were completely demolished, such as the Palace of the Republic. During the reckoning of the 1980s, even the general public pushed for recognition of forgotten sites like the Topography of Terror. The decisions made by the federal government in each specific case became representative of how the history of Berlin’s politics was to be embraced, contemplated, or recontextualized.