We’ll begin our tour at the iconic columns of the Brandenburg Gate, from where we are able to look down the Strasse des 17. Juni, one of the main boulevards in the proposed designs for Berlin’s urbanization as the capital of the Third Reich. Traveling a few short blocks, we’ll end up at 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—a grid of hundreds of towering concrete blocks—will provide us with a context to discuss the historical events of the Holocaust, as well as an opportunity to touch on the complexities of the Jewish experience both during and after World War II. As we walk through the former 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.
For visitors who would like to delve further into the history of the Holocaust: consider our Sachsenhausen tour, a trip to a nearby former concentration camp, or learn more about Jewish life, culture, and history on our Jewish Berlin Tour.
We'll conclude outside the Topography of Terror exhibition at the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters. This exhibition represents a self-conscious effort in the city to confront its Nazi legacy. Instead of trying to make a final statement about the horrors of Germany’s past, this site is committed to active engagement and to making history vivid and comprehensible. The exhibition is available to visit after the walk’s conclusion. By the end of our three hours together, we will have encountered the ghostly spaces of Berlin’s tragic past, not in an attempt to sensationalize or historicize the Third Reich, but in order to forge a connection to the present and understand how this history still shapes Berlin and Germany today.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
Christina is an East Berliner who was born in the GDR, a socialist republic that no longer exists. She danced on the Wall in 1989, and closely observed the restructuring of Germany and the frantic urban transformation of Berlin. At the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) she earned an MA in cultural history and comparative social sciences, particularly the ideology-based history of the twentieth century. Her dissertation was on a more contemporary subject of "The Economic Impact of the Contemporary Art Scene on the city of Berlin." She now works as an arts administrator, manages urban development initiatives, and since 2006 routinely walks guests through the eclectic and varied political, cultural, and architectural histories of the German capital and beyond.
Heribert is a native Berliner whose family history can be traced as far back as the founding of the city. An expert in urban history, for more than twenty years he has been guiding interested crowds through the German capital and the surrounding Mark Brandenburg, letting the stone witnesses of passing time tell their stories while he enthusiastically revives old lifestyles and tastes. He studied sociology, history, and cultural anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin. His professional experience is varied and far-ranging, including working as a freelance trainer for communication and intercultural education since 1982, and guiding tours since 1986. In the West Berlin borough of Wannsee he runs with his wife two fine cafés (including at the Max Liebermann Villa Museum) and a gourmet delicatessen, and he is well-versed in fine cuisine. With an anecdote for just about every historical detail, Heribert is the consummate companion for any and all learning adventures in this city.
Raised in New York City, Jan graduated from Williams College in 1985 with honors in the history of ideas and later went to the Harvard University Graduate School of Design to receive his MA in architecture in 1990. He has worked as an architect in Berlin since 1994. He has been a regular contributor to a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, the Harvard Design Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, Places Magazine, and the Architectural Record, writing chiefly about European architecture and urbanism. He teaches urban studies and sustainability at the IES Berlin Metropolitan Studies Program, and has served as an invited guest critic or lecturer at the Technische Universität in Berlin, the University of Warsaw Architecture School, and the Architectural Association in London. Jan is the Academic Director of the Northeastern University School of Architecture Berlin Program, where he also teaches two required seminars.
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