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. Other times, I feel pretty proud of the work the 10-year younger me has done. And I’m not saying that lightly. (-:
Since I’m curious what happens when history is a decade further in history, I’m visiting the places I wrote about 10 years ago.
#10: The 1953 uprising
Actually, the uprising from 1953 is very well chosen as a topic. In my tours, I refer sometimes to this uprising because I believe an important geopolitical lesson can be learned from it. The fact that the US authorities did not intervene, shows that the spheres of influences were respected. At least, control over Berlin and Germay was not worth a new war. So, the US politicians accepted that East Berlin was ruled by the Soviet politicians. This was an important puzzle piece for the division of Berlin. I believe it also made clear that the socialist regime wouldn’t be hindered in dividing Berlin by the Berlin Wall some years later.
Regarding my post: 10 years ago, I was looking for a Stein des Anstoßes (‘Offending Stone’). The good news is that it came after all! The bad news is, I had to edit my original text drastically.
#11: Kurt Tucholsky
In short: excellent choice to pick a public figure with such a strong Berlin identity as a topic for a blog-post. Yet, it’s not the right choice for connecting it to interesting locations.
#12: Homosexual history in Berlin
Actually, homosexual history can’t be covered in a single blog-post. When I lived in Brussels, I organised lgbtq+ history tours there (going back 1000 years in time!)
Now I have learned more about the topic, I want to give a couple of important insights. Attraction to the same sex has always existed in history. So does the persecution of homosexuality, as well as the toleration of it. In terms of numbers, homosexuals have not been killed in masses of people. To take present-day Belgium as an example: around 230 ‘sodomites’ have been burned in the period 1400-1660. Without forgetting the suffering of the lgbtq+ers that died way, the number honestly wasn’t as high as I thought it would be. The same goes with the number of homosexuals that were killed in the concentration camps during national-socialism. About 6000 homosexuals were murdered, nothing close to the millions that activists in the 1970s claimed to be killed. (It happens often that political groups exegerate the number of victims in history for their agenda.) Yet, in a more abstract way, it still means that the nazi’s brought back the barbaric horror from history into the 20th century.
With these numbers, I don’t want to say that the persecution of the lgbtq+ communities wasn’t all that bad. The point is that troughout history, discrimination of lgbtq+ communities resulted into many personal struggles, feelings of shame and depressions. The way of dealing with this, sometimes give an understanding how lgbtq+ people and their communities are nowadays. In short: phobia of the lgbtq+ was (and is) not as existential as we often think, but it was (and is) strongly psychological.
Of course, this point can be discussed and debated. I still have a lot to learn. (-:
#13: Rubble in Berlin
I was pretty enthousiastic about reading back about Schloß Schönhausen! Especially the role it played for visiting diplomatic guests for the East German state really gives this place an interesting twist. Weirdly enough, I can’t recall whether I’ve been in there or not… Will do soon!