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From 2012 till 2014, I published a series of articles covering Berlin’s history. I had to stop, since I passionately started working as a tour-guide.

Here is an overview of all the articles I wrote. Good luck!

(Bi-)Weekly updates —

2014:

2013:

2012:


Other updates:

Project Hans (Heinrich) Müller: an ode to the architect.
Early 2014, I’ve visited about thirty buildings created by Hans Müller. So far, he is my favorite architect within the German capital. This page is an overview for the articles that I published.

Re-post #6 #7 #8 & #9. Georg Elser + the Porajmos + Glienicker Brücke + Ernst Thälmann

When I turned 23, I felt the urge to know every detail about the history of Berlin. The next two years, I’ve visited and researched many places of historic importance throughout the German capital. This blog was the result of full-time reading, thinking and writing.

Now that I’m 10 years older and more experienced as a historian – I’m looking back to the work I’ve done. Sometimes I do this with a certain cringe. My critical thinking and writing skills were not fully developed (not to mention the overcomplicated style of how I used english). Other times, I feel pretty proud of the work the 10-year younger me has done. And I’m not saying that lightly. (-:

As an ode to the old blog, I’m visiting the places I wrote about 10 years ago.


#6: Georg Elser

My article about Georg Elser and his attempt to kill Hitler in 1939 is not an article to be ashamed of. Perhaps, it’s not the strongest either. After all (as admitted) the figure of Georg Elser doesn’t have a connection with the city of Berlin. Georg Elser’s attempt to kill Hitler was always well-known. In the last 10 years, even more. A German production used the story for a film. In the German Resistance Memorial Center (Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand) an entire room is now dedicated to Georg Elser’s attempt (photo #1 & #2).


#7: The Porajmos in Berlin

At the time (2012) this article was highly relevant. Just a few weeks before, the Sinti and Roma Memorial was finally opened. Located next to the Reichstag, it changed Berlin’s landscape. The memorial site has a official vibe to it, which is suitable for commemoration. Currently, the site next to it is being turned into being a part of the memorial. It seems to be the idea, that personal stories will give the memorial a more informative character. Which I underwrite. Until it opens (lets see when that will be) I think that the exhibition that’s right next to the station Raoul-Wallenberg-Straße really adds to the commemoration of the Porajmos. Although one thinks that the district (Marzahn) is far out, I highly recommend to pay a visit if you’re interested in the topic of the Porajmos.


#8: Glienicker Brücke: the Bridge of Spies

In retrospect, I think this article made me realise the power of the camera. When I wrote the article in 2012, I only had a 10-year old digital camera with max. 2 megapixels. (I didn’t use a smartphone till the age of 29. Guess I’m a little low-fi!). Still, I think the photos I made in 2012 were pretty good. As a location, I think the bridge is an interesting addition to the blog. I’ve been there frequently.
I feel though, that the content of the article was not all that great. Before editing (2022), there was much detailed information about the bridges in the period 1660-1960 whereas you (dear readers) surely wanted to read more about the three notorious spy exchanges. I’ve posted some extra photos and videos about these moments!


#9: Ernst Thälmann

Such a long article, where the basic question should have been: does Ernst Thälmann deserve a statue in present-day Berlin? And I’m not asking to erase all socialist memorials from the East German period. But, Ernst Thälmann is one of a kind…

In an interesting way, Ernst Thälmann did not fit into the strategy of the East German communists after the war. Then, the East German communists claimed to have learned from their mistakes they made before 1933. In the analysis, Hitler and the nazi’s could overtake the power because the left (communists and social-democrats) were too busy fighting each other. Those twists should be from the past, was the conclusion. The new strategy can even be seen this in the name of the socialist party after the War: Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist United Party of Germany). Officially, the left was now altogether in one party. In reality, the Moscow-aligned commies were in charge. However, if one person was responsible for the inter-left violence in the 1920s and 1930s that was now condemned? His name must have been Ernst Thälmann…

Still, I don’t opt for the removal of Ernst Thälmann’s statue. It is a worthy example of East German propaganda and its absurdities. Importantly, it needs to be contextualised with an information table. The graffiti saying “Hero” clearly doesn’t do the job. In this, I (proudly) differ in opinion from the local CDU (conservative party). One of their local representatives (backed up by the party) suggests to break down the monument and sell the materials to support Ukranian victims of the Russian invasion. At first sight that seems a noble cause to me, but I’m not convinced of any relation between Ernst Thälmann and Putin’s imperialism.

Re-post #2 #3 #4 & #5. Gedenkstätte Plötzensee + Teufelsberg + Luisenstädtischer Kanal + Unter den Linden 1878

When I turned 23, I felt the urge to know every detail about the history of Berlin. The next two years, I’ve visited and researched many places of historic importance throughout the German capital. This blog was the result of full-time reading, thinking and writing.

Now that I’m 10 years older, wiser and more experienced as a historian – I’m looking back to the work I’ve done. Sometimes, I feel pretty proud of the work the 10-year younger me has done. And I’m not saying such things lightly. (-:

As an ode to the old blog, I’m visiting the places I wrote about 10 years ago. Today, I reflect on the 4 articles I wrote in October 2012.

#2: Gedenkstätte Plötzensee


When I started as a blogger, I had a hard time finding places to write about. More than any other place, the Gedenkstätte Plötzensee reminds me of this start. I found it in a Dutch travel guide that would translate as Berlin for experienced visitors. Thanks!

Time hasn’t been standing still at the Gedenkstätte Plötzensee. Visiting the site is more recommended than ever, now that there is a permanent exhibition that came out really well. The Gedenkstätte’s website is a good start for a visit.


#3: Teufelsberg

The Teufelsberg is a dear place to me. Like many people, I got to know the place because it was abandoned. Visiting it was a thrill – making beautiful memories with friends. Later, I used the Teufelsberg (and spionage in general) as a topic for a course at the university. After all, I’ve studied Duitslandstudies (basically: MA German History) at the University of Amsterdam. After writing the blog-post, I got to know two colleagues who’ve been organising guided tours at the Teufelsberg around 2013/4. I kind-a regret I didn’t jump into that opportunity…


#4: Luisenstädtischer Kanal

For me, my post about the Luisenstädtischer Kanal was a breakthrough! Coming out of nowhere, I felt like I had discovered a topic for the blog myself. It made an impact on me that there is a park in the middle of the city, that no one seems to understand. I was lucky that I found an extensive and detailed book about this park. After writing about it, I’ve walked here countless of times. On a more critical note, my original text really needed an edit. (-:


#5: Attempts to assassinate Wilhelm I
There was something unusual about this article. Although it’s written in an acceptable way (and the topic deserves a few marks for originality!) the post is not the highlight of the blog. The events were hard to link to exact locations. Also, the events deals with topics in history that I never really mastered. I mean, I never became an expert in the German Empire (1871-1918). Ten years ago, I missed the opportunity to show the axe that beheaded Max Hödel. Honestly, I never took the effort to visit the Märkisches Museum until now, for the re-post! And I found out, that the axe is no part of the exhibition anymore. That means, there is nothing now that reminds of these attempts to kill the Kaiser.

Re-post #1. Sozialistenfriedhof.

When I turned 23, I felt the urge to know every detail about the history of Berlin. The next two years, I’ve visited and researched many places of historic importance throughout the German capital. This blog was the result of full-time reading, thinking and writing.

Now that I’m 10 years older, wiser and more experienced as a historian – I’m looking back to the work I’ve done. Sometimes I do this with a certain cringe. My critical thinking and writing skills were not fully developed (not to mention the overcomplicated style of how I used english).Other times, I feel pretty proud of the work the 10-year younger me has done. And I’m not saying such things lightly. (-:

As an ode to the old blog, I’m visiting the places I wrote about 10 years ago.


Today, the first look back into the mirror: the Sozialistenfriedhof. I can tell it was my first post ever! For example, I asked questions in the intro (“Each second Sunday of January, people of the (radical) left go to the Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde – but why?“) that I didn’t answer. If you’ve been wondering why the last 10 years: to remember Spartacus uprising from January 1919. If I would’ve written the blog-post now, I would have written more about Rosa Luxemburg. It’s hard to dislike her. Also, the destroyed monument from Mies van der Rohe that I mentioned, was at least worth a photo!

Monument (1983) for the destroyed memorial from 1926. (Berlin-Lichtenberg, September 2022)


One more thing: I should have been more critical about the memorial for “Den Opfern des Stalinismus” (The victims of Stalinism). The monument is so small, it’s totally lost. Also, one could be cynical and interpret the empty field around the monument as if it tries to say: there were not victims of Stalinism. At least, the lack of any context and information makes it rather underwhelming. It’s an example of a missed opportunity. And I can understand that can be painful for the families of the victims of Stalin-, Ulbricht- and Honecker’s regimes.

The 25th jubilee for the Fall of the Wall. Unsuitable predictability in the form of 8000 balloons.

Bösebrücke, the 9th November 1989.

It’s been 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell. Never again, this concrete monster would demand a casualty from leaving East Berlin. The starting decade of the 1990s promised unification of families and country, as well as an improvement by democracy and material prosperity. Additionally, the Mauerfall was the ultimate peak of the over-throwing of the East German regime, followed by other socialist regimes in the Eastern Bloc. The West thought of itself as nothing less but the winner of history and could expand its capitalist market stands. The fear for a nuclear Apocalypse disappeared like the snow in the sun: the Cold War and its arms race came to a peaceful end. With the Fall – there was no reason to moderate the borderless optimism.

Of course, Berlin’s Bösebrücke deserves all attention during the 25th jubilee of the Mauerfall. This bridge was the compound of the checkpoint Bornholmer Straße that had to be overcome at the historical 9th of November 1989. That noon, a bungling Günter Schabowski -spokesman of the ruling Communist Party- promised at an international press conference that East Berlin’s borders would be open immediately. An East Berlin crowd, mentally prepared by many previous protests and thousands of people that left East Germany, gathered that same evening in front of the checkpoint named above. The commanding officer, Harald Jäger, excluded violence and opened the barriers of the checkpoint at 11:30 pm. The crowd celebrated their way over the Bösebrücke, into West Berlin’s lower-class district Wedding. Clear as the day, Harald Jäger doesn’t deserve anything but a thirty meter high statue made out of white marble, standing on a golden pedestal.

Toppling over the socialist regime and uniting the Germanies was nonviolent, even uncomplicated. Soon after, all the misery started. The socialist regime left behind a useless economy as a heritage. The healing of socialism was implemented with a shock therapy. The market economy was introduced too rapidly, which the old factories couldn’t keep up with. Half a generation of East Germans was doomed to unemployment, social benefits or even a homeless existence. Depression, alcoholism, addiction and violence became a mass phenomenon. Their financial weight caused that united Germany was nicknamed the sick man of Europe, in serious need of social reforms. In the meanwhile, the little profit that was able to suck out of the former East, disappeared mostly in the pockets of West Germans and their businesses. It was a development, often seen by the Ossi’s as economic colonialism. The claimed tax however, was again brought back to -former- East Germany. The amount of public funds that was invested into the former East is estimated between the €250 billion and €1500 billion. Knowing what is means when such a number is not transparent, I would rather believe the second number here is closest. Up till now, many Wessi’s are often dissatisfied for paying the German unification.

With the disappearance of the East German regime, the political violence wasn’t brought to an end at all. The Mauerfall and die Wende (‘The Turn’) resulted in nothing less than a Welle (‘Wave’) of violence from the extreme right. The violence peaked in 1992, when their black boots kicked life out of 26 people. Since the unification, it’s been proven of at least 184 murders that they have been committed by the neo-nazi’s. Who knows how many more victims fell in fact. And the number is still counting due to incidents, but the real Welle seems to be over. Now, a coincidence in history makes that the neo-nazi’s start their own party at the 9th of November – when antisemitic aggression peaked in 1938 during the barbarous Pogromnight. Today, the nazi’s and football hooligans found each other in an aggressive anti-IS coalition. It is feared that they will disturb the celebrations upcoming 9th of November. Berlin’s riot police is preparing a situation already.

Happily, this doesn’t keep the Berliners from celebrating the twenty-fifth jubilee this Sunday. Apparently, the bourgeoisie is the winner of the Mauerfall since a Bürgerfest (‘civilian festivity’ – not ‘people party’) is organised at the Brandenburger Tor. There is music starting at 2 pm, with a culminating point is planned to be in the evening – when Beethoven’s 9th symphony is performed. According to Richard Meng, spokesman of Berlin’s local authorities, the jubilee is going to be an “emotional weekend” in which Berliners “will celebrate the happiest day in the newest history of the city”. For these festivities, Berlin’s authorities therefore asked the help of the brothers Bauder. They had a stunning idea.

Lets dump some illuminating balloons in the city. Kind off looks like the Wall!” said one to another, who more or less answered “Great idea! A light wall where the Wall stood, through the inner city!” and probably forgot that the Berlin Wall had to be about ten times longer. “…But the real Berliners live in the inner city” he probably assumed. “You’re a genius, ‘bro! In this way, the light wall will pass by the Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag – so these buildings will finally be on the photos again!” – “And the balloons will fly on the tones of Beethoven!et voila. Of course, these brothers don’t do this for a fish in a tin. Apparently, this conceptually correct balloon costs €240 each, since there is paid about €1.938.000 for it. Happily after all, there was a socially engaged foundation that said “Very artistic, guys! Really interesting! And cheering! So nice of you, to provide the birds in their food for the upcoming winter!” after which the Berliner Lotto Stiftung (‘Berlins Lottery Foundation’) was thank-you-very-much’ed. To make sure that no one is going to be surprised by this boring idea, photo-shopped images of these balloons in front of the Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag appear already one year in advance.

And what’s going to happen at the Bösebrücke? Somewhat outside of the centre, we still find here victims of die Wende. These German mumbling, addicted men of a middle age who by the end of the morning sit drunk at the stairs. I’ve seen it myself. The street scene is dominated here by a well-known discount supermarket chain with its blue-yellow logo and a beggar hanging around its entrance. The Bösebrücke is for the Bürgerfest not photogenic enough. Sunday, a speech of three quarters is announced, c’est tout.

So. Twenty-five years after the Mauerfall, the sick man has recovered fairly well. The German politics and economy are relatively stable and trustworthy, big parts of the former East are economically profitable and there is -usually- barely violence on the streets. The overthrow of socialism hasn’t been this successful anywhere else. It wasn’t even nonviolent in Romania and it didn’t succeed in Belarus after all. In former Yugoslavia, the 1990s didn’t mean a unification. The upcoming nationalism resulted in a division, which was heavily encouraged by the German Minister of Foreign Affairs. The situation escalated, a bloody war followed and resulted in a genocide. This however, has all been outside of Germany. It’s kind off on the edge of being context, you see.

For Berlin, the optimism that the Mauerfall started is grounded to a certain extent. For an “emotional weekend” it is even normal to gather nearly €2 million and spread round and about 8000 balloons over the show window of Berlin’s centre. The predictability of how this moment is going to look like is in the strongest contrast possible of all the side-effects that followed the Mauerfall. In my opinion, using balloons is a repetition of the somewhat arrogant optimism 25 years earlier. I can only hope that unforeseen waves of rubbish won’t violate the free spirits in the sky this time.

Tensions between the past and the now… Or, well: lakes in Berlin!

Sometimes, I feel this tension between the past and the now: between the imagination and the experience. Between the feeling that you feel and understand history… and the moment that you grab your camera to proof it & share it with the blogosphere. Walking around town for all this history, I’ve also happened to run into astonishing places that were not of any use for this blog. It couldn’t help me from using my camera and enjoying the view a second time, now at home. I don’t see a reason not to reveal these during summer-time, when digital visitors may be eager to look for analogue inspiration and cool off at some lake. If you’re asking for my personal favorite: that is definitely be the Liepnitzsee with its blue water. I’ve spend a great summer-day there – albeit without a camera.

View over the Mueggelsee. May 2014, photo by Joep de Visser.

View over the Greenwichpromenade at Tegeler See. November 2013, photo by Joep de Visser.The Bay at Schildhorn a.d. Havel. June 2013, photo by Joep de Visser.

Winter Wonderland at the Lehnitzsee. Oranienburg, February 2013. Photo by Joep de Visser.

View over the Glienicker Bruecke. November 2012, photo by Joep de Visser.

Capturing changes and… Or, well: view over Berlin!

Now I’m having a camera for about two years, I noticed that it is a great tool to immortalise the city & to capture all kinds off changes. When I started this blog, I set myself the goal to prove that the capital of the 20th century has more that’s worth paying a visit to than only the Fernsehturm and other tourist eternities. Now that I’ve made my walk around here, I turned into a full admirer of the socialist disco ball after all. The last photo here shows that – even when you’re 20 kilometers southeast, the St. Walter is still shining for you. The city may be changing – so did I.

View from the Boesebruecke. April 2013. Photo by Joep de Visser.

A view over the city. From Tempelhof. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser.

View over Goerlitzer Park and Berlin. May 2013. Photo by Joep de Visser.

View over the city. Seen from the Mueggelturm. May 2014, photo by Joep de Visser.

Hans Heinrich Müller’s architectural work in Rummelsburg & Oberschöneweide

In this mini-series, I gather photos of the architecture made by Hans Heinrich Müller (1879-1951). The work of this man is too forgotten, although he was the mastermind behind dozens of Electricity Stations which were constructed in Berlin’s 1920s and early 1930s. This may be my last post about his work! With this 13th post, I’ve taken photos of 34 creations. Now, I can’t find anymore of his buildings! Only a few have been destructed by the Nazi’s for megalomanic urban planning – or were bombed during the war. Another couple of buildings are hard to find & in too far districts to take the risk of going there without success. However, in my first post – I told you that “when you keep an eye to the ornaments, one will find these details back in his later work”. This moment is now! The octogram, also seen on (for example) the Gemeindedoppelschule (1909) and the Umspannwerk Koppenplatz (1926), is back again!

Kraftwerk Rummelsburg (1925 till ±1935, various expansions)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Front-side. (Berlin-Rummelsburg, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Front-side's details. (Berlin-Rummelsburg, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Seen front the Rummelsburger Landstraße. (Berlin-Rummelsburg, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Seen front the Rummelsburger Landstraße. (Berlin-Rummelsburg, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser.)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Machine house. (Berlin-Rummelsburg, photo from 1928)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Berlin-Rummelsburg, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser.Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. (Berlin-Rummelsburg, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Details. (Berlin-Rummelsburg, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Details. (Berlin-Rummelsburg, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser.)Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Rummelsburg. Front-Side. March 2014, photo by Joep de Visser.

Hans Heinrich Müller's Kraftwerk Rummelsburg. Seen from the other side of the Spree. (Berlin-Treptow, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)
Umspannwerk Oberschöneweide (1933)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk, Wilhelminenhofstraße (Berlin-Oberschöneweide, 1933)

 Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk, Wilhelminenhofstraße. (Berlin-Oberschöneweide, June 2014)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Oberspree. (Berlin-Oberschöneweide. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser)

 Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Oberspree, side-view. (Berlin-Oberschöneweide. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Oberspree. (Berlin-Oberschöneweide. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Oberspree, backside (Berlin-Oberschöneweide. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Oberspree. Details inside of the nowadays Werkstatte.(Berlin-Oberschöneweide. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser)Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Oberspree. Details at the staircase. (Berlin-Oberschöneweide. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Oberspree. Details at the staircase. (Berlin-Oberschöneweide. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser) Hans Heinrich Müller's Umspannwerk Oberspree. Details (Berlin-Oberschöneweide. June 2014, photo by Joep de Visser)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, when a German’s career comes to an end in the year of 1933 – alarm bells start ringing. What did the Nazi’s do to him after Hitler took power in January that year? After the enormous productive years Müller had, the nose-dive after 1933 is utterly remarkable. It looks like some party had an intention. Now, was his marriage with the daughter of a former well-known communist already enough to be boycotted? Or did the Nazi’s simply favoured different architecture, which meant a ‘natural death’ for Müller’s work? Perhaps, Müller had the intention not to contribute to the Nazi Empire. In addition regime-change also errorred the professional network of an architect, and Müller may not be bothered in restoring these. It’s proven that in stead of semi-public factories, Müller only build private houses. On the other hand, in 1937/8 – Müller participated in an architectural competition for the Hochschulstadt: a Nazi military school located at the nowadays Teufelsberg. Although Müller didn’t got the assignment, it implies that he didn’t boycott the Nazi’s after all. All summed up, it’s unsure why Müller was not that active as a public architect anymore after 1933. Some party may have had an intention once, but maybe it is coincidence after all…

Hans Heinrich Müller’s “Gleichrichterwerke”

In this series, I gather photos of the architecture made by Hans Heinrich Müller (1879-1951). The work of this man is too forgotten, although he was the mastermind behind dozens of Electricity Stations which were constructed in the 1920s and early 1930s. The Gleichrichterwerke have an other function than all buildings I’ve blogged before. These buildings had to convert the voltage into electricity. Although I could only find two of them in the whole city, I think that these Gleichrichterwerke had to right to be in the series about Müller’s electricity buildings as well. Here is my fore-last update!

Gleichrichterwerk Niederschönhausen (1928)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Gleichrichterwerk Niederschönhausen. Front-side. (Berlin-Pankow, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Gleichrichterwerk Niederschönhausen. (Berlin-Pankow, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser) Hans Heinrich Müller's Gleichrichterwerk Niederschönhausen. Details. (Berlin-Pankow, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser) Hans Heinrich Müller's Gleichrichterwerk Niederschönhausen. Details of the rounded tower. (Berlin-Pankow, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser) Hans Heinrich Müller's Gleichrichterwerk Niederschönhausen. Details (Berlin-Pankow, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)


Gleichrichterwerk Zehlendorf (1928/29)

Gleichrichterwerk Zehlendorf. (Berlin-Zehlendorf, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)

Hans Heinrich Müller's Gleichrichterwerk Zehlendorf (Berlin-Zehlendorf, late 1920s)Gleichrichterwerk Zehlendorf. Backside. (Berlin-Zehlendorf, March 2014. Photo by Joep de Visser)