What To Expect
This three-hour walking seminar explores the twelve years that still gape like an open wound at the center of Germany's 20th century history: the years between 1933 and 1945 when Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party (the Nazis) steered Germany into war and terror. In the company of a 20th century historian, we will explore the rise of the Nazis to power, the horrors and tragedies of their regime, and the events and circumstances that led to their fall. We will pay special attention to the monuments designed and envisioned by Hitler's chief architect Albert Speer that bear active witness to the reign of the Third Reich, trying as we do so to come to terms with this traumatic "past that will not pass away," and in so doing will link Nazi history to the geography of their capital city, Berlin.
We will begin at the Reichstag, German house of parliament where the fire of February 27, 1933 - falsely pinned on the Dutch socialist Marinus van der Lubbe - proved pivotal in gaining Adolf Hitler the dictatorial "power of decree" that he used to rescind the civil and political rights of the Weimar constitution and thus set in motion the events of the next twelve years. We'll linger on this spot because it helps to frame some fundamental questions about Nazi power: From where did it derive, and how did their reign begin?
Our exploration will take us to the Brandenburg Gate from which we will be able to look down the long, straight Strasse des 17. Juni, one of the main boulevards in Albert Speer's proposed plan for the new monumental center of "World Capital Germania," as Nazi Berlin was to be renamed. A discussion of this plan and imagined city will lead us to the memorial of the central tragedy of the Nazi regime: Peter Eisenman's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This controversial and enigmatic monument will provide us with a context to examine the Nazi policy toward Jews and others whom they identified as "inferior races," a policy most clearly revealed in the Nuremberg Laws that provided the horrific "final solution to the Jewish question" in 1942.
During the remainder of our walk through the former Wilhemstrasse government quarter of Berlin we will pass many other sites, memorials, and works of architecture that will help us confront the realities of Nazi rule including the former site of Hitler's Chancellery, the (now built-over) location of the Führerbunker, the former Reich Ministry of Aviation (Luftwaffe), and other major offices that orchestrated the war. We'll conclude with the newly opened Topography of Terror exhibition at the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters, an exhibition that represents the most self-conscious effort in the city to uncover the Nazi legacy of a particular place. The nature and organization of the exhibition will give us much food for thought. Instead of trying to provide a final statement about the horrors of Germany's Nazi past, the Topography of Terror museum is committed to an active engagement with that past, contextualizing it by using place to make history vivid, comprehensible, and inextricably connected to the present.
This last is, in many senses, the primary focus of this walk. We are attempting not merely to "historicize" the Third Reich by separating it completely from the present, but rather are trying to grapple with Berlin's Nazi legacy - and especially with the sites that remain linked to it - in order to understand how this legacy shapes Berlin today.
Meals and drinks
Tips and gratuities
Hotel pick-up can be arranged with an additional fee. Please inquire.
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