Travel Germany: 2.5 kilometres Berlin - Let's Talk About Diversity

Berlin is the capital city of Germany. Tourists and locals both love to visit the Maerkisches Museum to learn about Berlin’s history, or go to the Berlin Cathedral for a great view over the town and to listen to a concert. Of great interest is also the book burning memorial on Bebelplatz, as well as the Museum Island. You can easily spend a whole day and more just to see these few mentioned Berlin hotspots, and I often do exactly that.

Travel Germany 2.5 kilometres Berlin - Let's Talk About Diversity

Here is a route I walk on most Saturdays when I’m at home in Berlin. I can't remember how many people I met with while they were visiting I have shown this part of town. It is a lot to take in, a bit overwhelming or better shocking probably too. You won’t have to walk far; it is only 2.5 kilometres in total. It is a short walk, and it shows clearly that it is always the right time for diversity and intercultural openness. Schedule in a full day, and you will see a lot of Berlin’s history. You will see many fine street scenes, cafes and bars and at the same time see places where the most to this day unfathomable and ferocious things happened. Just right in the middle of Berlin, you will find gruesome history and many stories about people with strong moral courage.
If you start walking, it will soon be revealed that indeed everything can happen at any time if we aren't conscious of what is going on around us and that we need to protect the peace and freedom we enjoy now. We visit places that are witnesses of what was. Places that help us to understand the past and to create a better future. It is also a great place to think about how manipulators manage to exclude some from a group. It is apparent they do this to gain power. The fascinating and encouraging thing is, to see that people here live a normal, passionate and fulfilled life, despite the horrors this area has seen.

2.5 kilometres Berlin - Let's Talk About Diversity

We start at the S-Bahn station, Hackescher Markt. Walk a few minutes from here over to Rosenthaler Strasse 39. 

Rosenthaler Strasse 39 and its courtyard

This courtyard is full of street art, and you will never be alone, but hey, it is an exciting space, so obviously most people put this place on their Berlin must-see list. There is a boutique in Haus Schwarzenberg, and these women get annoyed when you visit their store without buying anything of their designs. So far I had a few odd discussions with them about customer service and history, and that it is better to smile and not be grumpy all the time. I’m not walking in their shoes, of course, they might have horrible experiences. You better ask nicely, whether you are allowed in, to peek out of their window into the courtyard. It is a great view, well worth the hassle.

The Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt

It tells the story of this workshop, where blind and deaf Jews made brushes and brooms during WWII. Stories tell about the employees and the determination of owner Otto Weidt who did all he could, to protect them from deportation. Details: Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. Rosenthaler Strasse 39. Hours 10am to 8pm. Entrance is free. Closed on 24th December. Audio guides are available in English.

Silent Heroes Memorial Centre

There were people, who helped and supported Jews during the time of Nazi Germany, and this is a place to hear the stories about these silent heroes. Very inspiring, every individual story is an excellent reminder, to not be a bystander when others need help. Details: Silent Heroes Memorial Centre. Rosenthaler Strasse 39. Hours 10am to 8pm. Entrance is free. Closed on 24th December. Audio guides are available in English.

Anne Frank Zentrum

You will have to visit the Anne Frank Zentrum with a beautiful mural of Anne’s face, by Australian artist James Cochran, next to the entrance. Discrimination and racism are wrong, diversity and intercultural openness are vital for the future of every society. The time of National Socialism and the Holocaust are explained through events in Anne’s life. What can we take home from a visit and learn from Anne Frank? We don’t need to wait a single moment to change the world. Details: Anne Frank Zentrum. Rosenthaler Strasse 39. Hours 10am to 6pm. Tickets EUR 5, tickets for children up to the age of ten are free. Closed on 24th December. Audio guides are available in English.

Read more about Anne Frank in Travel the Netherlands. Amsterdam. Discrimination of innocent people can turn the world into a wilderness.

Bar Eschloraque

Have drinks in the bar, or at one of the tables in front of it. This place is open all year round, and you can sit in the courtyard (even if it is snowing) till the wee hours. The bar’s heart beats for unconventional art, music and lively individuality. Details: Bar Eschloraque. Rosenthaler Strasse 39. Hours: from 2pm.

Walk from here back onto Rosenthaler Strasse, turn left follow the street until you reach Grosse Hamburger Strasse and turn right.

Memorial Jewish Cemetery

The Jewish cemetery on Grosse Hamburger Strasse is the oldest of Berlin’s Jewish cemeteries. Established in 1672, it closed in 1827. The German Nazis destroyed this place during the terror regime. There was also a Jewish Boy School (Grosse Hamburger Strasse 27) and a home for senior citizens that were closed and turned into a prison, a "Jewish camp" of the Gestapo in 1942. From here over 55,000 Jewish Berliners were deported and murdered in concentration camps. There are a sculpture and a plaque in memory of the murdered Jews at that position. The Jewish School re-opened its doors in 1993, after the fall of the wall and the end of the dictatorship of the GDR. 

Protestant Church - Sophienkirche

In 1964 Martin Luther King popped in for a surprise visit to East Berlin (remember this whole walk is in the previous GDR). Imagine this. The US civil rights activist arrives at checkpoint Charly but carries no passport. The GDR border guards let him in with only his credit card as proof of identity (not sure how they knew what that is). MLK preaches to believers in Marien church at Alexanderplatz and also in this one, where he condemns the dividing walls of hostility and believes it is best to tear them down. There are so many people present that it is almost a miracle that the galleries do not collapse. Grosse Hamburger Strasse 29. Hours: Monday to Saturday 1 to 6pm. Service on Sunday mornings. 

Sophienstrasse in Mitte

This street is over 300 years old and is probably one of the most beautiful ones in Berlin. There are still small two-storeyed Biedermeier houses. Keep on walking through the entrance of the former craftsmen's house, built in 1844, through its courtyard to the famous Sophiensaale. These are 90 rooms, built as a vocational training institute with an auditorium, a library, a dining hall and a beer garden. Even the left-oriented revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg would speak here; she was later murdered and thrown into the Landwehr Canal. During GDR years the Maxim Gorki Theatre had workshops here, and today it is a well-established place for independent art productions. At Christmas time there is a Christmas Market on this street on every weekend up to the 24th December.

The Barn Café

Third Wave (speciality coffee) Café and Roastery. Order an espresso-based drink at the counter before you grab a seat. Relax with your single-origin coffee from sustainable farming. If you like what you drink, you can also order the coffee online. Read: For coffee addicts: 6 espresso-based drinks to be clear about what you would like to order. Details: The Barn. Auguststrasse 58. Hours Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am to 6pm.

Turn right into Auguststrasse.

Claerchens Ballhaus

Claerchens is hot. This is where young and old meet, no matter their background. The beer garden is just a fun place to hang out and the inside is a quirky place for everybody who loves to dance. It opened its doors in 1913, and the widow of the owner who took over from her husband when he didn’t come back from WWI named the place after her. Up to the 1940s visitors danced and enjoyed this place daily, but it all came to an end when events with a non-belligerent character were made illegal. Today there is a different theme on every night of the week, from Salsa to Disco to Waltz. There is a mirrored ballroom on the second floor, which was left untouched ever since WWII. After the war, it was used as a storage space. It has got a unique atmosphere, entering feels like stepping back in time. Check the program, there are often concerts and other events that are open to the public. Occasionally it is set up also as a restaurant, and dinner is served on white linen and by candlelight. There is a new owner and as of August 2020, Claerchens Ballhaus re-opened in all its former glory. Details: Claerchens Ballhaus. Auguststrasse 24. Hours: 11am till the last guest leaves.

Jewish Hospital

The building at Auguststrasse 14-16 built around 1860 was planned as a hospital. The complex was soon used differently, as there was another hospital just around the corner on Grosse Hamburger Strasse. Over time it was a girls' home of the Jewish Women's Union, a nursery, a community cooking school, a sewing and working room, a dental clinic, an orthopaedic gymnasium and an orphanage. The Nazis used it up to the end of WWII as a collection point for old and sick Jewish citizens, who were deported from here to concentration camps. I always wonder how this was possible right in the middle of a densely populated neighbourhood, for every Berliner to see. You surely must have seen one of these TV programs where eyewitnesses pretend to not have known what was going on at the time.

During the GDR the property was used for educational purposes. For years and years, the street-facing windows of the heritage-listed property are barricaded with planks; only recently the roof was fixed so that it wouldn’t collapse. This property, as well as the one next door and the New Synagogue, are all declared “Cultural monuments of national importance."

Jewish Girls School

This school opened its doors in 1930 for 3,000 girls but was closed down by the National Socialists soon after in 1942 who used it then as a military hospital. Since the school was only operating for 12 years, one can see how quickly things can change. Hitler and the Nazis began to spread hate and the Germans believed in him and elected him into power. The Nazi Party and the German society simply decided that Jews aren't normal citizens of Berlin any longer, but dreaded outcasts.

After the fall of the wall not much happened here for roughly two decades. Today it houses a restaurant, the Pauly Saal, the deli Mogg and Melzer Deli and two galleries, CWC Gallery and The Kennedys. It has the look of a school. Not much has been changed in the design and layout of the property, it is beautifully restored. Auguststrasse 11-13.

Turn left onto Tucholskystrasse and walk the few metres towards Oranienburger Strasse where you will have to turn left.

New Synagogue Oranienburger Strasse

The Jewish community grew ever bigger and they desperately needed a new synagogue, so they decided to build the new one right in the middle of their borough. The Jewish community grew and hence they desperately needed a new synagogue. It was eventually decided to build a new one, right in the middle of their borough.

You will see that there are oriental forms and elements, the architects were inspired by the Moorish style of the Alhambra in Grenada. The synagogue opened in 1866. In the Reichskristallnacht, a pogrom against Jews on 9th November 1938, the New Synagogue was damaged. Soon after in March 1940, the last day of worship, during the Nazi terror regime, came. The Nazis then used the property as a warehouse for the Wehrmacht. The building was more damaged in a British air raid in November 1943.

After the war, only 8,000 of the approximately 170,000 Jews who had lived in Berlin in 1933 remained.

The New Synagogue was again made accessible to the public in 1995. That was 50 years after the liberation of Germany from National Socialism. The New Synagogue is guarded by police officers, and one wonders why this is necessary today. Too many people obviously don't know enough about recent German history and apparently didn’t learn anything from it.

Centrum Judaicum. Oranienburger Strasse 28-30. Hours 1st April to 30th September, Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and Sunday from 10am to 7pm. Closed on Saturdays. For more detailed information visit the website of the Centrum Judaicum, please.

Cross the street and turn left into Monbijoustrasse and walk down to the river Spree. From here you will have a lovely view of the TV tower and the Museum Island. In summer there is a beer garden where people dance the tango on Sunday afternoons, in winter it will probably just be you. Walk along the River Spree towards Hackescher Markt station.

Berlin’s history empowers tourists and locals

Populists will tell you: that political correctness is for cowards, that immigrants are the root of all evil, that it is best to isolate your nation and be great, that the press always spreads false news (plus all the other racist and anti-democratic views). You know the only thing these people want is power, and on the last 2.5 kilometres, you have seen where this would lead to. Just tell them they are wrong. Berlin’s history empowers tourists and locals to tell the truth.

From Berlin with love