New Synagogue: cherished Jewish building
Policemen carefully walk around the New Synagogue of Berlin. Quite understandable if you know what happened to the Jewish community of Berlin during the Second World war. Not many Jewish buildings survived the brutalities of the Nazi’s. Many Jews were killed and transported to concentration camps when Hitler was in power.
The few Jewish buildings that survived the war are cherished. Now, the new synagogue shines in the sunlight. You can easily spot the golden dome from quite a distant. In 1886, when the new synagogue was built, the Jewish community could easily find the synagogue as well. The Jews must have found that very convenient. The Scheunenviertel, where the new synagogue is, was a maze of small streets during that period. Before World War II there were many Jews in this part of Berlin.
In fact, the Jewish community grew so fast that they desperately needed the new synagogue. Because they did not fit in the old building anymore. The new synagogue had enough room for 3200 people to hymn songs and say prayers. It was the largest synagogue of Germany. Architect Eduard Knoblauch did his very best to not only make it the largest synagogue of his county, but also the prettiest. He became inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
Although the Jewish community suffered great losses and even the nearby Jewish graveyard was ruined by the Nazi’s, the new synagogue was relatively spared during the pogroms in 1938. The bombs during the Second World War severely damaged the new synagogue though. Only the façade remained largely intact. In 1995 the synagogue was reopened, but it is no longer in use as a synagogue. The building is now used as an exhibition space to show the Jewish history of Berlin. www.cjudaicum.de
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Rosa Luxemburg Platz has a very bloody history. In the twenties of the last century the communist party had their headquarters at the square of Rosa Luxemburg Platz. They often fought with the Nazi’s in this area. Police officers kept a keen eye on both sides, which were the key ingredients for a major row.
The Scheunenviertel is gallery heaven. After the fall of the Berlin Wall many artists moved to this area and that is still visible. Kunsthaus Tacheles was one of the most famous galleries of the area. The Scheunenviertel still has a lot of galleries. Many art galleries can be found in the August Strasse, Oranienburgerstrasse and Rosenthaler Strasse.
Imagine what it is like to be separated by a brutal wall for decades. The Berlin Wall ran straight through the lifes of Berlin families and friends. A lot of people entered and left East Berlin by train. The place where Berliners met and said goodbye soon got a new name: Tranenpalast. Because of the many tears (tranen) that flowed here.
Unter den Linden was build to make visitors look in awe at the buildings. It was set up to show that Berlin was no longer a village, but a big city. The street was filled with landmarks by the Berlin royalty. If you walk along Unter den Linden you will stare at the Schlossplatz, Altes Palais, the Princessinenpalais and Kronprinzenpalais.
A cemetery where the Berlin Wall ran through and battles of life and death took place. The Invalidenfriedhof in Berlin is a beautiful 18th century graveyard with graves of marshals and officers. Invalidenfriedhof seems to be peaceful and quiet, but that changed in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was erected right at this graveyard.
Alexanderplatz, or Alex as it is called by Berliners, is one of the most popular squares. This has a lot to do with the weird shiny marble on a large stick, better known as the famous landmark, the Fernsehturm. But not all. Alexanderplatz is also popular among Berliners, just for the square. During the golden twenties Alex was the place to be.
The Fernsehturm, build in 1969, is Berlin’s most famous landmark. The GDR-government was very proud of the Fernsehturm, but not so pleased with it when the sun was shining. When the sun is shining on the tower, a radiant cross appears on the Fernsehturm. Berliners call this ‘the Popes revench’ because the GDR-government was very anti-religion.
You can still feel the awkwardness and fear of the Cold War at Checkpoint Charlie. It was the main checkpoint to cross the border between West and East Berlin for foreigners during the Cold War. Some Berliners tried to flee the city through Checkpoint Charlie and died there cold and alone.
The Bundestag is the stage where democracy failed poorly and rose out of it’s ashes again, after the Cold War. When the Bundestag was built in 1894, democracy was on the verge of collapse. No one knew how to govern the country because there was hardly any experience with governing Germany.
The Brandenburger Tor at the end of Unter den Linden became the symbol of reunited Germany and Berlin. Between 1961-1989 the Berlin Wall surrounded the Brandenburger Tor. East Berlin was on one side – a couple of meters further was West Berlin. It was quite tragic, especially because the Brandenburger Tor had originally been the representation of triumph.
Berlin life starts at Charite. A lot of Berliners are born in this remarkable building with red bricks. Charite is one of the best known and prettiest hospitals of Berlin. But Frederic the first didn’t build it in 1710 to celebrate new life, but out of fear for the upcoming plague.
The Friedrichstrasse is the perfect street to gawp and aw at the prestigious windowsills full of expensive cars, clothes and interesting books. Friedrichstrasse was bombed to pieces in World War two, but soon became a show off street again. You will find bookparadise Dussmann here, as well as glamorous Galerie Lafayette, luxurious hotels and restaurants.
At the Holocaust Monument architect Peter Eisenman depicted the horrors that victims of the Holocaust experienced. The Holocaust Monument is a maze of grey concrete. It shows us how terribly organized the brutal acts during the Second World War were. The maze looks just as organized as the brutal Nazi’s.
The Humboldthafen shows how dynamic Berlin is. What used to be no-man’s-land, now turns into an area with modern architecture. In the Cold War Humboldthafen was quite a sinister place. The first victim of the Berlin Wall fell at Humboldthafen. Gunter Litfin tried to swim from East to West but the GDR guards shot him. He didn’t survive the bullet rain.