I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit Berlin last weekend. It wasn’t until I climbed aboard the aircraft that I realised I would be in the city on Armistice Day. I was intrigued about how the whole ‘thing’ would go in Berlin. I did a quick google and it turns out that Germany has a national day of mourning for all those lost in conflict the following weekend. Considering that Germany is only 27 years old as a united country and Berlin is only just over 700 years old it is a city scarred by conflict and in a massive guilt trip over what has happened in it’s short life.
I have written before about my feelings about how there are heroes and victims in both sides of any conflict https://custardon.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/custard-on-d-day-70-years-on/ Which ever side won or lost there is always someone who doesn’t come home to their friends and family.
In Berlin there is no escape from it’s troubled past. The older stone buildings bear the pock marks of bullet holes and bombings. They are repaired but the scars still show. The old buildings are often facades with new buildings behind the old frontage. The Wall is never far behind the scenes with a watchtower here and a photo opportunity there. There are small brass plaques on the streets marking the homes of the Jewish families who were taken from their homes to a terrifying end.
I took a few moments to reflect on this as I walked around the Reichstag building on Sunday morning, my poppy still in place. I really just wanted to wrap my arms around the city and say, it’s okay. There are terrible things that happen during all conflicts. Human beings are pushed beyond the limits of normal. That might be sleeping in a trench, or living behind the iron curtain wishing for life with Pepsi cola. It might be choosing to kill to save your life or those of your friends, or surviving on little less than potatoes being bombed and blockaded. What struck me was seeing a building and a nation rise from the ashes, guilty of the sins of it’s fathers – who were cruel beasts. For my moment of remembrance I took a few minutes to think, as always of all those who never made it home but also for those caught up in a game they have no control of. Those trapped behind a wall erected overnight, those who lived through but were never quite the same because of their experiences. For everyone touched by war and still touched by war. The buildings of Berlin begin to grow and change. Repairs are finally completed and the new Capital City begins to stand on it’s new infant feet. What a price was paid for this by all sides – we will remember them.