Christian Travelers Guides

Christian Travelers Guides

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Topography of Terror

Since I have started talking about the Nazis, in reponse to what Rick Steves, said, I may as well go on with this theme. In fact, Berlin has a number of moving museums dealing with the Nazi era and the German resistance. Outside of Germany few people know anything about the resistance, yet it was very real and involved a lot of Christians. One place to see is the Topographie des Terror (Top­ography of Terror Museum), Prinz-Albrecht-Gelände.

This is situated on the site of the former State Secret Police and State Security Center of the Gestapo and SS. It contains graphic details about the fate of Germans who resisted the Nazi dictatorship. Here you will learn that, contrary to popular opinion, most of the opposition to the Nazis came from either Christians or conservatives. The Nazis prided themselves in being able to “turn” Communists and other left-wing opponents. But Christians stood firm against the tyranny and often lost their lives in the process.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nazism and the distortion of travel and history

The main problem with writing about visiting Germany, particularly visiting Berlin, is that German history is so often confused with National Socialism. This, of course distorts history, yet it is an understandable distortion given the horrors of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime.

For example, as part of Rick Steves’ PBS travel program, now on DVD (1977), about the German city of Berlin a young tour guide explains that the German Finance Ministry on Wilhelmstrasse was originally built as Herman Göring’s Air Ministry. She then explains that this oppressive structure was built in the “neo-classical style.” This comment is wrong and actually quite misleading.

Designed by the architect Ernst Sagebiel, who also built Tempelhof Airport, the style is better described as a form of monumental functionalism as Prof. Ronald Taylor points out in his excellent book Berlin and its Culture (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997:272-274). This was one of the main Nazi styles, not neo-classicalism.

Neo-classicism is associated with the beautiful buildings of Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) that line Unter den Linden and are found throughout Berlin and the State of Brandenburg. These very human buildings are a far cry from the deliberately domineering style used by the Nazis and ought not to be confused with Nazi delusions of power.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Berlin the unlikely destination for tourists ...

Berlin is a great place to visit, yet somewhere that few people think about when planning a European vacation. So let's begin by blogging about Berlin with a short history.

During the 12th century, the Citadel Spandau was built by the margrave, or count, of Brandenburg as a frontier post against the Slavs. Soon two towns, Cölln and Berlin, grew up on the banks of the Spree. In 1307 the towns merged as Berlin-Cölln and joined the Hanseatic League. In 1415 Count Friedrich Hohenzollern (1372 – 1440) became the Kurfürst (elector) of Brandenburg. Fifty-five years later, Berlin became the official residence of the Hohenzollern dynasty, which was eventually to rule the whole of Germany. The elector Joachim II (1505 – 71) converted to Lutheranism (1539). A generation later Johann Sigismund converted to Calvin­ism (1613), although most of his subjects remained Lutherans, thus laying a foundation for religious tolerance. During the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 48), Berlin changed hands numerous times, suffering extensive damage, losing half of its population. In 1640 Friedrich Wil­helm (1620 – 88), known as the Great Elector, became the ruler. With the end of the Thirty Years’ War, the city’s economy slowly revived, and in 1675 Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg defeated the Swedes at the battle of Fehrbellin, thus securing Prussia’s independence. In 1685 the elector invited 6000 French Pro­testant refugees, known as Huguenots, to settle in Berlin, making almost a fifth of the population French. This wise act stimulated the economy and laid the foundation for Prussia’s future greatness ....

More next week