Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Diversity Destroyed is the name of the current Berlin Theme Year, inspired by two events which led to the death of millions and to an almost complete and irreparable destruction of the city´s unique culture and character. In 1933, exactly 80 years ago, the Nazis came to power and began to unravel the reality to make it fit their straight-line requirements.
In five years´ time they managed to prepare very solid background for the realisation of their ultimate goals: the taking over of Jewish property by erasing the whole group and using the thus gained financial power to finance the war. A vital part of this background were the Pogrom Nights of 1938 , also known as Kristallnacht or Crystal Night (although the pogroms lasted more than just 24 h).
Diversity Destroyed Theme Year is reminding us of those events and paying tribute to the people who fell victim to the Nazi policy of total, also racial, control.
The house in Fontanepromenade 15 in Kreuzberg, with its dark history of persecution and suffering, has long been standing forgotten and unnoticed. Few of those passing it by know that between 1938 and 1943 it used to be the seat of Zentrale Dienststelle für Juden – Central Work Office for Jews (you can read more about the history of the house in my previous post here). For many years it was simply known as “the Mormon Church” (after the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days who moved in in 1950) and raised not much interest.
But something about it makes many people uneasy. Grown-ups watch it with drawn eyebrows and kids usually just fear it. And it was one such kid, a little boy afraid of the house, who inspired his mum to find out more about it. Nothing chases the ghosts off as quickly as proper research.
Stella Flatten of flattenflatten – joint practice for “questioning daily practices and routines in the public space of the city by means of connecting science in artistic aspects” – decided to learn more about Fontanepromenade 15 to show her little son that there was nothing spooky about it, nothing to be feared. But in a way what she found out proved just the opposite.
Stella decided the story of this particular house had been unspoken for long enough. It was time people were reminded of the grave role it played during the Nazi rule. It was also time somebody reminded others of those who had to go through its door on their final way towards destruction.
Diversity Destroyed Year provided a perfect platform for it. And thus in co-operation with Kreuzberg Museum (in Adalbertstrasse 95a) and Aktives Museum Faschismus und Wiederstand in Berlin e.V. as well as with Helga Lieser and Nachbarschftshaus Urbanstrasse (Urbanstrasse 21) she prepared a series of events meant to re-introduce this chapter in Fontanepromenade´s long history.
On May 23rd, this Thursday, you are kindly invited to take part in the ceremony of unveiling of the commemorative plaque in front of the former Zentrale Dienststelle für Juden, followed by a piano concert of Julie Sassoon and a film presentation at Nachbarschaftshaus Urbanstrasse right behind the corner.
The two films: The Last Days by Liane Lang and Fontanepromenade 15 by Stella Flatten and Christina Voigt can also be seen until November 10th, 2013 at the Deutsches Historisches Museum – German Historical Museum – as part of their Diversity Destroyed Exhibition (ground floor, access free).
Also on Thursday two so called Judenbänke, benches only for Jews, will be placed in a small park-like alley in front of the house. Exactly the same benches were placed there in 1940, further separating the Jews summoned to the work office from the non-Jews visiting the street. The seats which will be displayed there now are yellow: it being both the colour associated with the persecution of Jews (yellow David´s star sewn onto their clothes) and with standing out, being both in and under the spotlight.
On top of that, the Thursday meeting marks the beginning of a series of public art installations and exhibitions which will also take place inside the building.
All of this, sounding not unlike an exorcism, might not cleanse Fontanepromenade 15 of its eerie air, it might not chase the ghosts away but it will at least give them a name. And that equals bringing back to life.