Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Through January 30, 2016
Artist Anat Manor (Berlin-Ramat Gan) exhibits at Berlin-Friedenau Gallery Lee through 30 January 2016. Impressions from exhibit opening!
Twenty five percent of all proceeds go toward supporting traumatized refugees in Germany.
Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Through January 30, 2016
All photos taken from panorama viewing platform courtesy of the Park Inn Radisson Berlin Alexanderplatz
From now until approximately mid-November, chocolate loving architecture fans can observe Reichstag repairs in progress at Fassbender and Rausch (Gendarmenmarkt) each afternoon from 2.30 to 6 p.m.
Small patch of grass across from Grunewald station bus stop now bears a beautiful name and is connected to real people who visited Berlin today from a real place in Israel to commemorate 30 years of city district partnership...
The first deportation trains left Berlin on 18 October 1941.
Commemoration today at Berlin Grunewald's Memorial Track 17...
Paul Sharakan, b. 1932 in Lithuania.
Labor camp outside of Vilna.
Late 1940s: Young man immigrates to U.S.
Paul and his wife, Louise, recently visited Berlin for the first time...
If you are coming to Berlin on or before October 3rd, don't miss the free and fabulous outdoor Berlin history film and laser light show, "To the German People," beginning at dusk every evening along the Reichstagsufer (Spree riverbank at the Reichstag). The show runs about 30 minutes, with English subtitles. From August 29 to September 4th, last showing ends at 8.45 p.m. From September 5th through October 3rd, last show ends at 8.30 p.m. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Enjoy!
I look for them everywhere. Berlin guests ask me where to find them. I didn't expect to see their faces here. Yet they are here, deep within Berlin's Riogrande restaurant along the Spree River in Kreuzberg, across the water from the East Side Gallery (the longest remaining stretch of Berlin Wall).
Standing in front of the black and white photos on the right, the question I am often asked by guests from abroad arose: "I was wondering if there are, um, any black people in Berlin?" Until interacting with this exhibit today, I had never considered the relationship between power and posing questions -- likely an entitlement that I, as a white person, take for granted almost every day...
Please click PLAY to begin slideshow:
"Diama" is a collection of selected black and white photographic portraits of inspiring Black women who live and work in Germany, or are German. In this exhibition, based on the book of the same name, Afro-German photographer Nzitu Mawakha presents a unique collection of striking images where the women portrayed are the ones to ask the questions.
Explore "Diama: Images of Women of Colour in Germany" by Nzitu Mahawka at the Riogrande restaurant and cafe though perhaps November of 2015; May-Ayim-Ufer 9, 10997. Tel. (030) 610 749 81www.riogrande-berlin.de
Terrace views along the Spree:
Question: What do you get in Berlin when you sandwich a day in between historic April 30 and May 2?
Response: May 1st or "May Day," the German equivalent of the U.S. Labor Day (though infinitely more complex in its history, which was solidified into a national holiday by the Nazi Party) and a chance to both enjoy and "sink about" spring in Berlin.
The enjoyable portion of this report would not be complete without a good laugh thanks to this Berlitz "May Day" classic (which is crucial for understanding the rest of this blog):
Vat are you sinking about?!
In all seriousness, however, please do allow me to share what I am "sinking about" on this day:
Earlier this week, I was asked by guests who had just participated in the March of the Living why I had not yet participated or had chosen to visit Auschwitz. Response? Because I live with and carry the weight of what Daniel Libeskind (architect of the Berlin Jewish Museum) deemed "the continued presence of the absence" each and every day in Berlin.
I venture to say that time functions differently in Berlin than in any other city on Earth. The urban landscape untiringly unveils the past while informing the present such that on one Sunday you (or I) can take part in an interreligious ceremony at Concentration Camp Ravensbrueck; the next Sunday we might follow an invitation from our local organic farmer to board a bus out into the Brandenburg countryside to enjoy a "Festival of Blooms" - as opposed to a "Blooming Festival"(!) - and welcome spring in an orchard.
Simple enough to follow such an invitation? Response: "Jein" - the German mixture of ja + nein. Better yet, let me do something some folks (for better and for worse) call Jewish, namely to answer a question with a question: When and why might boarding a bus for an excursion into the German countryside prove upsetting and/or require a leap of faith...?
So far, so good...for as long as one pushes away the nagging thought of how during the Nazi era, folks deemed "unworthy of life" were coaxed into going shopping in busses flagged with the Kaiser supermarket friendly teapot sign, and then asphyxiated directly in the busses out in the forest. Nazi euthanasia basics, taught about in Berlin here:
Please don't get me wrong. There was nothing for Richard and I to be scared of and we were in no way afraid for our lives! We share a fabulous rapport with our local farmer and his wife - such that they participated in the renewal of our (Ari & Richard's) Jewish wedding vows in Berlin earlier this year. YET the hard part comes with maintaining consciousness while stepping into situations and/or visiting landscapes in which not too long ago, in a galaxy not so far away...
We break for station identification and return to the business of making an EFFORT to not think about the past for two seconds (read: ideally for a few hours!) and enjoy the arrival of spring in Berlin! Arrival at the Sigeris orchard was a site for sore eyes and potentially history-weary souls...
My only regret for the day was the necessity of my being gluten free...sigh. Watching Richard dig in had to suffice! All organically grown and/or homemade deliciousness!
It isn't every day that you get the tour with the low down on organic farming, directly from the horse's mouth! Did you know that after German reunification, East German farmers were offered financial premiums for destroying their orchards...? After the competition from the East was conveniently removed, the premiums were not paid out.
Turns out that the greenhouses were the perfect place to be during the downpour which ensued! When it stopped, the tractor rides began. Maybe I can't eat cake, but I can hop in and sit on hay with the best (and the youngest) of them!
After enjoying the band for awhile...
...Richard and I decided to walk down to the lake:
It was down at the lake that despite my very best efforts, I could not help but think of my "visit" the previous Sunday to concentration camp Ravensbrueck, located across from the town of Fuerstenberg, also along the Havel River and home to a beautiful lake. Here are "my" two lakes from two consecutive Sundays in Brandenburg (the state which surrounds the city of Berlin), side by side:
With another deluge approaching, we purchased organic fruit and vegetables, said hurried goodbyes, and ran back to the bus just as it began to pour...
P.S. Two Jews board a bus from a Havel River town back to Berlin...
Nearly seventy years after the end of WWII, this is what Spring in Berlin looks like:
This is also what Spring in Berlin looks like:
Today is MAY DAY, friends.
Vat are you sinking about?
It reminds me (Ari) of one of those unsolvable math problems I encountered regularly during elementary school: If four Jews get in a small red car at noon on Sunday in Berlin and drive through the light-dappled Brandenburg country side to a concentration camp 90 minutes away, how many miles / kilometers / light years will they travel before reaching Ravensbrueck? Even if no suitcases are visible, how many generations of baggage are they carrying with them? How long of a ladder is needed to bridge an abyss?
Yesterday. Noon. Berlin. The irony of the situation was not lost on the four Jews in the car: Such a world in which we were voluntarily driving ourselves to a place where our own ancestors and relatives were counted amongst the 28,000 women, teens and children murdered at Ravensbrueck - the concentration camp located in idyllic Furstenberg along the Havel River...
Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Ravensbrueck in 1945. An interreligious and (Christian) interdenominational ceremony was planned. After successfully having the ceremony moved from Shabbat to Sunday, Cantor Jalda Rebling chose to participate in order to keep her promise to keep alive the memory of a close female relative who had survived Auschwitz, Ravensbrueck, and a death march.
Next impossible elementary school math problem: If this ONE Jew, an ordained cantor, travels to Ravensbrueck alone (again), who will say "amein" in response to Kaddish ( - central Jewish memorial prayer)? Last time the equation looked like this (and please forget any thoughts of having a minyan, the traditional required quorum): One Jew + Kaddish = 0; thereby substitute with a long and painful moment of silence. I said, "I will go with you," and then we were TWO.
Yet to be representative, the program required a clerical trinity: a Protestant pastor, a Catholic prelate, and a rabbi. When Cantor Jalda was joined by Rabbi Walter Rotschild, then we were THREE. What could we want (more)? My friend from Denver, Tia Amdurer (hospice bereavement counselor and therapist), was in town following the birth of her German-American-Jewish grandchild; and thus in the little red car bound for Ravensbrueck were FOUR.
Reb Zalman z"l once said "the only way to get it together is t o g e t h e r." Jalda, Walther, Tia and I entered Ravensbrueck's former prison block, together. Imagine a two story space consisting of ground and basement level, a staircase at each end of the long hallway descending into the basement - a narrow hallway lined with prison cells below, as well as prison cells lining the dual walkways above...
At the end of the long basement hall with the chilly floor, the last prison cell was being used as a "Room of Contemplation" - the chosen spot for clergy participating in the ceremony to place their personal belongings, don robes, etc. I stayed with Jalda and Walter in this space where women had been incarcerated, tortured, isolated and starved, as the two of them discussed their text readings, Kaddish (a Jewish memorial prayer) and El Male Rachamim (a Hebrew prayer for the souls of the departed). I could not help but smile at being deemed "Mitarbeiterin" (associate, staff) by the German organizers.
The entire ceremony lasted more than an hour. I did not begin to take photographs until close to the end, imagining that both being able to bear witness AND share these impressions with you would be important. I sat next to Jalda and Walter; Tia sat behind me. And behind Tia, a room full of all of us - people in prison, together...
The first photo I took was of Jalda, reciting four contemporary designations for Ravensbrueck together with youth in different languages: German, Hebrew, English, French, Polish...
Ravensbrueck is a place of
(1) violence and disdain
(2) grief and anger
(3) meeting and learning / remembering and commemorating
(4) promise and responsibility
(Sensitivity note: See the church choir placed up high in the light? Perhaps a spatially effective choice, yet for my Jewish self "visiting" Ravensbrueck, I personally felt discomfort with "Kyrie Eleison" sounding from above, this particular Christian interpretation of the story of Esther - which included Haman being noted as King of Persia (!), and with being blessed / crossed by the Catholic prelate as he recited the priestly benediction. I am making an intentional choice to not otherwise discuss the theology / liturgy of the ceremony here because it makes for yet another unsolvable elementary school math problem which I cannot even begin to formulate on the day after Ravensbrueck...)
Jalda also explained the significance of the Jewish tradition of laying stones to mark graves and as signs of remembrance. She shares here how many of her own relatives who were murdered during the Shoah have no resting place, nothing but "graves in the sky." Thus the programmatic decision for participants to be able to take a stone with them from the ceremony inside the former prison to intentionally lay outside in their place of choice - be it by the site of the former gas chamber or alongside the lake into which the ashes of thousands and thousands murdered and cremated had been discarded...
As part of the exiting processional, I carried out one of the three baskets of stones and stood silently as people filed past. I smiled at the people who were able to look me in the eye. One woman could not bring herself to reach into my basket for a stone, and began to cry. "It's so hard! It is so difficult," she moaned in German. I put the basket of stones off to the side and gave her a hug, realizing that it is everyone's pain to deal with, regardless of which side of this German-Jewish legacy we stand. She took a stone with her as she left.
At the moment I realized what was missing for me: I wished that instead of me being thanked for coming as a Jew to Ravensbrueck, and instead of hearing multiple petitions to the Heavenly Father for revelation during "times of need," I wish I had heard from the Christian clergy who serve in the vicinity of this concentration camp that not all too long ago, their ancestors had failed my ancestors at a crucial junction in history. I wish I had heard a little less about h o p e and a whole lot more about what it means to take action on behalf and in protection of others during desperate times of need...
This flow of photos taken yesterday honors Janny van der Kar, of blessed memory.
Cousin of Chantor Jalda's mother, Lin Jaldati z"l and Jalda's maternal aunt (also named Janny, after Marianne / Miriam / grandmother Gerritse), Janny van der Kar survived Auschwitz and transfer to Ravensbrueck.
From Ravensbrueck Janny was sent out on a death march, and "never stopped walking until her body refused to take the next steps in this world" (Jalda) in April of 2013.
Janny lost a baby at Auschwitz. She met her husband in Amsterdam after the war. After the founding of the State of Israel, they moved to Nahariya together, where their daughter, Jalda's cousin, still lives and is hopefully reading and seeing this...
Jalda is keeping her promise to keep Janny's memory alive.
P.S. Four Jews get back into a small, red car and drive far, far away from Ravensbrueck...