Berlin Wall and War Memorials:  Touring the Mitte District with Lauren van Vuuren

Berlin Wall and War Memorials: Touring the Mitte District with Lauren van Vuuren


No events are scheduled at this time. Want to be notified when it’s back? Click the blue button to the right and we’ll notify you.

Can't make this time? A video recording will be sent to all participants after the seminar.

The central Berlin neighborhoods of Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as the heart of the reunited city. From pre-Second World War tenement apartments that have been transformed into high-end real estate to foster a vibrant nightlife, restaurant, and art gallery scene, the reconstructed center of Berlin glitters once again after years of decline under Communism. Yet beneath the newly glamorous facades of these neighborhoods lies a complex and fascinating history. This is Berlin, after all. 

During our conversation, we follow the Berlin Wall through Prenzlauer Berg, before entering the old Jewish Quarter and encountering the stories that its quiet streets still hold memories of in the form of the ‘Stumbling Stones’ and other Holocaust memorials. We examine the remains of the Second World War still ingrained in bullet-riddled walls, and glimpse the great New Synagogue and its Moroccan Dome towering above the Oranienburger Strasse. Finally, we arrive at the center of the city, the Museum Island, rebuilt King’s Palace, and the Royal Mile of the Unter den Linden. The German critic Karl Scheffler once said, ‘Berlin is a city condemned forever to becoming and never to being’ and here that is manifest: the main drag of Berlin is full of buildings whose meaning and significance have altered over the centuries, and whose very bricks and mortar have been subjugated to changing ideological moments, and then left marooned in a present and future that no longer refers to them, or reflects them. 

We will encounter the extraordinary story of the King’s Palace that was destroyed by the Communists and replaced by a People’s Parliament, which was in turn destroyed to build a self-conscious reconstruction of that distant baroque seat of the kings in 2022. In a similar vein, we will visit the ‘Neue Wache’ war memorial and the site of the Nazi Book burnings at Bebel Platz, before ending up in front of the Brandenburg Gate, a mighty monument at the heart of Berlin that has been the stage for some of the most iconic Berlin moments, from the occupation by Napoleon to the party on the wall in 1989.

Dr. Lauren van Vuuren is a South African born historian currently living in Berlin. As an AW Mellon Fellow and then lecturer at the University of Cape Town she taught and researched across a range of subjects from the history and theory of warfare and violence, to representations of the South African and German past on film. In December of 2012 she came to the Free University as a research fellow in contemporary history, and encountered the most compelling world she had ever experienced: Berlin. Then, the sheer weirdness of the gloomy winter city merged with her understanding of its recent past to convince her of the utter uniqueness of Berlin as a place, and as an idea. Within a year she had permanently relocated to the city. Today she researches, writes about, and teaches on the twentieth century history of Berlin. Sharing the stories of this excoriating place has become an enduring joy for her. She is the recipient of the South African Thomas Pringle award for short story writing in 2013 and is currently collaborating with a photographer on a book of stories and photographs about Berlin.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

No reviews yet
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)

Customer Reviews

No reviews yet
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)