‘Es ist geschehen, und folglich kann es wieder geschehen. Darin liegt der Kern dessen, was wir zu sagen haben.’
‘It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say.’ Primo Levi.
I am standing in the Room of Dimensions and I’m having trouble holding back the tears that are threatening to spill over and trickle down my cheeks. The room is starkly light and my shadow is looming over the transcript on the floor at my feet. I brush my tears away and continue reading through blurred vision.
‘…Goodbye forever. I kiss you tenderly. Your, J.’
There are many letters and diary entries – descriptive, shocking, deeply moving, terrifying, heart-wrenchingly sad. I read them all, sometimes twice or three times, taking in every word, trying to absorb what I’m seeing. It’s difficult to read about such atrocities when this history is less than a century old, and it feels like we have learned so little from it.
As I take my leave of the museum, I notice a quote on the wall:
‘Es ist geschehen, und folglich kann es wieder geschehen. Darin liegt der Kern dessen, was wir zu sagen haben.‘
‘It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say.‘ Primo Levi.
Outside, under leaden grey skies, the 2,711 concrete ‘stelae’ that make up the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe sit heavy and brooding. Tourists like myself are wandering amongst the ‘stelae’, kids are running, playing hide and seek down the narrow pathways that run between the slabs in a grid pattern. I turn down one of the many lanes and am plunged into shadow, the air becoming oppressive, claustrophobic. The ground dips away and the slabs rise high over my head, blocking out the light as I walk deeper into the heart of the memorial.
As I reach the other side and emerge once more to a vantage point overlooking the slabs, I pause and look back. I’ve spent nearly two hours here, and I need to make my way back to Alexanderplatz now to meet L, who will finish work soon. I find I’m reluctant to leave – the place holds me, leaves me standing a good five minutes longer while I remember this moment in time and remember why this memorial is here.
The six million.
The Berliner Fernsehturm, soaring over the city and dominating the skyline, guides me back to Alexanderplatz. I take my time, walking under Brandenburger Tor and strolling along Unter den Linden past the Berliner Dom with its distinctive green domes. The trees are a riot of colour and the dishwater skies provide an excellent backdrop on which to add splashes of gold, red and orange. After my earlier brush with tears, I now find myself smiling. This is my favourite season and the city is showing off. Autumn has gripped Berlin.