By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Berlin and historical ironies

Berlin is an amazing city for anyone interested in modern history -- the rise of the German Empire in the nineteenth century, the Nazis, the Communists in East Berlin. The Albert Speer-built Luftwaffe Ministry, from which Hermann Goering directed the Blitz against England, survived the war undamaged, then became a Communist ministry complete with a socialist realist mural on the outside facade, and is now the German Ministry of Economic Affairs (with the Communist mural still on the outside)!

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be taken on an incredible tour of the main building of the new Hertie School of Governance, which hopes to become the Kennedy School of Germany, which they share with the European School of Management. The building itself is the 1963-built former headquarters of the East German Council of Ministers! That building in turn includes a reconstruction, in the middle of an otherwise modernist structure, of the part of the facade of the old Kaiser Palace (the rest of the Palace was blown up by the East German government in 1950) from whose window Karl Liebknecht, the left Socialist German leader, tried to proclaim a soviet republic in Germany in 1919.

The interior of the East German Council of Ministers, now classroom space for the Hertie School, includes the various halls and areas that were at the center of the East German government, including the area to receive distinguished visitors used by Erich Honecker, the East German dictator deposed when the Wall came down in 1989. The interior decoration is sort of Scandinavian modern, with lots of blond woods, actually surprisingly nice-looking, tasteful, and not over-the-top. One of the main lecture hall areas prominently features a large East German state seal! The walls and lighting fixtures are original, I was told, and the East German state seal had to stay where it was. "The building is historically protected," I was told.

By the way, in the window of a bookstore near my hotel, I saw the new German-language edition of the magazine Vanity Fair, as well as German translations -- they are out already -- of both new books on Hillary Clinton.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jul 12, 2007 at 12:08 PM


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