Berlin: A Sober Reminder from 80 years ago

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Berliners live in a city that saw more tumultuous history in the 20th century than nearly any place else in the world. Today our German guide Janna tells us about a sober anniversary the city is currently recognizing.
January 30th, 2013 was the 80 years anniversary of Adolf Hitler becoming German Chancellor – the first step of changing Germany into one of the cruelest dictatorships ever seen. Berlin offers a wide range of special exhibitions, open air information, and events for this occasion, one of them being a special exhibition in the Documentary Center of the Topography of Terror, the site of the former headquarters of Nazi terror institutions, namely SS and Gestapo headquarters.

Germany, suffering from 30% unemployment rate and a general lack of support for the Weimar Republic, put political power in the hands of Adolf Hitler. The belief of fellow politicians to keep this man and his national socialist party NSDAP under control was quickly turned down: only 4 weeks later, on February 27, the Nazis set fire on the German Reichstag, the Parliament House. The so-called Decree for Protection of State and People, emitted only a few hours after the fire, was the first legal step to install dictatorship. The very next day, mass arrests filled German prisons, regular laws being out of order for 12 years.

But did you ever see the famous picture of SS and SA troops marching through Brandenburg Gate on January 30, 1933? Did you know it’s a fake? As there weren’t enough people around to cheer Hitler on the very day, Joseph Goebbels, Reich Propanganda Minister, rearranged the scenery only months after – as happens sometimes, a propaganda trick…

Berlin, which in the years before was one of the leading world capitals of culture, science and journalism, fell dark under Nazi times. A third of German Jews once enriched Berlin life - in 1945, 55,000 out of 175,000 were killed. The Holocaust, meaning industrialized mass murder of 6 million European Jews, as well as the World War, was planned and organised in Berlin. Hitler worked here in the Reichs Chancellery, and he escaped responsibility for his crimes, committing suicide in the Fuehrerbunker. At the end of 12 years of his terror regime and the end of war, 80% of Berlin was destroyed and a field of rubble left in its place - this was what Hitler made out of the capital of his so-called beloved Germany.

Thank you Janna, for your detailed account. I visited the city last summer for the first time and was enthralled with the history of the place - and taken aback that it looked nothing like I thought it would. While Berlin suffered devastating losses during Hitler's reign (and of course, further destruction during the Communist Era), a progressive, artistic and beautiful city stands strong today.
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