Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Berlin Day 3

A day I will never forget. Today we traveled to Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen
Guided tour of the Memorial. The Memorial at the site of the Concentration Camp, formerly the GDR’s “Sachsenhausen National Memorial”, was redeveloped in 1990. The Concentration Camp itself was taken over by the Soviet Army in 1945 and was used as a special camp for political prisoners.The SS established the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as the principal concentration camp for the Berlin area. Located near Oranienburg, north of Berlin, the Sachsenhausen camp opened on July 12, 1936, when the SS transferred 50 prisoners from the Esterwegen concentration camp to begin construction of the camp.

In the early stage of the camp's existence the SS and police incarcerated mainly political opponents and real or perceived criminal offenders in Sachsenhausen. By the end of 1936, the camp held 1,600 prisoners. Between 1936 and 1945, however, Sachsenhausen also held Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, "asocials" (among these prisoners were Roma and Sinti), and, later, Soviet civilians. Words can not express the emotion one feels when you are experiencing a memorial to such horror. Needless to say I am not the same, nor will my teaching be.

Given the rain, we had to postpone our bike tour to Potsdam and had the afternoon to explore the museums of Berlin. We decided on the Pergamon Museum. The idea for the new museum came about in 1907 and completion took 20 years - from 1910 to 1930. It opened during one of Germany's most turbulent periods and was subsequently largely destroyed in the bombing of Berlin during World War II.

Fortunately, many of the pieces had been stored elsewhere for safe keeping and a number of the museum's larger pieces were "walled in" for protection. In 1945, a portion of the original collection was taken to Russia and is still housed in the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museums there. Many items were returned in the late 1950s but, due to Russian restitution laws, some still remain in those two museums.

The Pergamon Museum is divided into three distinct sections: the Antiquity Collection, the Islamic Art Museum, Pergamon Altar, and the Near East Museum. We saw several large-scale pieces, like the Pergamon Altar (180-160 B.C.), which is so huge that it requires an entire room. Constructed in Pergamon, Asia Minor, as an altar to Zeus, the gigantic structure is the centerpiece of the museum. We also saw the magnificent Roman gate which led to the market of Miletus, also in Asia Minor.

The Near East Museum is one of the largest and finest collections of antiquities from ancient Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the fa├žade of the throne hall of King Nebuchadnezzar. There is also a model of the Tower of Babel in the Babylonian Hall.

The Islamic Art Museum, focused mainly on the Middle East including Egypt and Persia, features art from the eighth through the nineteenth centuries. Guests can view architectural decorations, ceramics, jewelry, metalwork, wood carvings, textiles, and calligraphic works.

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