12 September 2018

A first-time visit to
Berlin for three days

Tucholskystraße is close to the New Synagogue in Berlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I am in Berlin for a three-day city break until Friday.

I have passed through Frankfurt Airport many times in the past – the first time was in 1990 on my way back from South Africa, and the last two occasions were earlier this year, on my way to and from Thessaloniki.

But this is my first time to stay in Germany, and I arrived in Berlin on a flight from Dublin late yesterday evening. I am staying in an apartment on Tucholskystraße, within walking distance of many of the main sites in the centre of Berlin.

A photograph as I enter this apartment is a reminder that this street is named in honour of Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935), a German-Jewish journalist, satirist, and writer who also wrote under the pseudonyms Kaspar Hauser, Peter Panter, Theobald Tiger and Ignaz Wrobel.

Tucholsky was born in Berlin-Moabit, moved to Paris in 1924 and then to Sweden in 1929. He was one of the most important journalists of the Weimar Republic. As a politically engaged journalist and co-editor of the weekly Die Weltbühne, he became a social critic in the tradition of Heinrich Heine.

He saw himself as a left-wing democrat and pacifist and warned against anti-democratic tendencies – above all in politics, the military and justice – and the threat of Nazism. His fears were confirmed when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He was one of the many writers whose work was banned that May as ‘un-German’ and burned. He was also one of the first authors and intellectuals to have his German citizenship revoked.

I am just around the corner from Oranienburger Straße and the Neue Synagoge or New Synagogue, built in 1859-1866 as the main synagogue of Berlin’s Jewish community. Because of its splendid eastern Moorish style and resemblance to the Alhambra, it is an important architectural building from mid-19th century Berlin.

I went out for dinner last night in Hummus and Friends, a Kosher and vegetarian restaurant on Oranienburger Straße, beside the Neue Synagoge. But so far I have seen little of Berlin. Over the next few days I hope to explore this city mainly on foot.

This morning [12 September 2018], after I plan to join a six-hour tour of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, which is 35 km north of Berlin.

I have booked a visit to the Pergamon Museum tomorrow afternoon

On Friday [14 September], I am planning to join a four-hour walking tour of Jewish Berlin’s destruction and rebirth.

This area is in the former East Berlin, so my other plans probably include a walk along Unter den Linten and visits to the Brandbenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall.

But I have never been to Berlin before, so I am open to new experiences and new sights.

Join me over these next few days, and seen what I see as I explore Berlin for the first time.

The Neue Synagoge or New Synagogue on Oranienburger Straße last night … it was built in 1859-1866 as the main synagogue of Berlin’s Jewish community (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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