The last full day I spent in Berlin, it was snowing a lot. It was also the day on which I toured some of the “hidden” parts of the city, including several tragic backstreet reminders of its World War II Jewish history. The accumulating snow certainly amplified the doleful sense of horror I felt, but there was just no escaping the harrowing truths.
Two particularly subtle points of interest have lingered in my memory longer than the others. The first, standing discreetly adjacent to the Friedrichstrasse station, is the Trains to Life - Trains to Death monument, which commemorates a rescue mission known today as the “Kindertransporte” (children’s transport). Between late 1938 and late 1939, in anticipation of Nazi atrocities, more than 10,000 Jewish children, including Frank Meisler, the artist, were evacuated by train to safety in Great Britain. In his bronze, life-size sculpture, two hopeful children head in one direction (toward life), while five others stare mutely in the other (at death).
The second are the Stolpersteine, the German word for “stumbling blocks.” These small, brass plaques are embedded in the street to remember people killed or displaced by Nazi oppression. They were created by Gunter Demnig, who still hand-produces each one. As of July 3, 2013, there were 40,000 stolpersteine in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway and Croatia.
To see these and more of Hidden Berlin, try the Berlin Urban Adventures tour of the same name.