On my most recent visit to Berlin I decided to do something I had so far avoided: take some shots of the usual Tourist motives. I had done this elsewhere of course, but never in Berlin. The obvious starting point for such a mission is the Brandenburg Gate, where I got the standard shot towards the end of the golden hour. The film was 120 format Kodak Portra 160 in a Zenza Bronica SQ-Ai, I brought a 50mm and a 150mm lens.
From this first location, I walked on towards Potsdamer Platz. The way from the Brandenburg Gate to Potsdamer Platz leads past the holocaust memorial: it is right in the centre of Berlin, close to the parliamentary building and occupies a large area.
It is a good thing that a memorial was built, it is a good thing that it is centrally and prominently located, rather than being placed out of sight. I do, however, have my doubts about the shape it took. If you chanced upon the installation and didn’t know what it stood for, you could mistake it for an abandoned building project or just another modern art installation.
I took a shot of the memorial with the high-rise buildings of Potsdamer Platz in the background, using the 50 mm lens and tripod mounting the camera. From there, I made my way into said backdrop.
Potsdamer Platz has been completely rebuilt: it was extensively bombed during World War II and then remained abandoned during the cold war. There, in front of one of the steel and glass towers I stumbled across another holocaust memorial. A small one:
In between the cobble stones of the side-walk, there is a brass covered cube commemorating the deportation and murder of one Dr. Georg Lewinsohn. He last lived where the mini memorial is now and was thence deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered, in 1943. He was 63 at the time, and as far as I can tell, that is all we know about him.
These stumbling stones –Stolpersteine– are a project by German artist Gunter Demnig. They are common in Berlin and have been placed in other locations. While they are small installations, these little metal cubes left a much more profound impression on me than the memorial in the city centre. Seeing one of these on my old way to school, or where a childhood friend used to live, has an impact a grand scale conceptual art installation will ever match. Small is not exactly beautiful here, yet human lives and human destinies are best remembered on a human scale.