Jim’s Berlin

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Beelitz1

The abandoned sanatorium buildings of Heilstätten Beelitz was the destination for last Tuesday’s History Tour. Jim and 15 intrepid guests headed out on a 60km journey to a place that can only be described as heaven for history geeks and photographers. The sanatorium was first opened in 1902 as Germany’s largest lung clinic and through the years has treated some notorious people including none other than Adolf Hitler who was here receiving treatment for wounds he received while fighting on the western Front in 1916. Erich Honecker the former leader of communist East Germany also spent his last days on German soil in the safety of the military complex before disappearing to Moscow and then on to Chile after East Germany collapsed in 1989.

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Jewish Museum

(above: © Jüdisches Museum Berlin, Foto: Jens Ziehe)

As part of our weekly programme of history tours to different places in and around Berlin, we are heading off this Tuesday morning to the Jewish Museum where we will meet a guide from the museum who will take us around the exhibition “The Jewish Response to National Socialism”. The exhibition will cover the limited ways in which Jews could actively respond to persecution and the desperate struggle to continue their everyday lives. Personal documents give evidence to the attempts of Jews to survive, to engage in resistance and to maintain their dignity. The way Jews wrestled with the question of when or where to emigrate provide typical examples of the existential challenges faced by this segregated and persecuted minority.

Here is what the museum has to say about the exhibition:

“Soon after their assumption of power in 1933, the National Socialists initiated anti-Jewish measures that seriously endangered the social and economic existence of German Jews. They increasingly stigmatized and excluded Jews with the intention of having them expelled. By 1941 their aim was the physical extermination of the Jews. The tour elucidates the limited ways in which Jews could actively respond to persecution and the desperate struggle to continue their everyday lives. Personal documents give evidence to the attempts of Jews to survive, to engage in resistance and to maintain their dignity. The way Jews wrestled with the question of when or where to emigrate provide typical examples of the existential challenges faced by this segregated and persecuted minority.”

There will also be an introduction to the building and the museum. The tour is free for guests of the Circus (although you will need a public transport ticket) but places are limited and you are asked to kindly speak to the reception or your concierge to let us know if you want to come.

topography

(Image: Stefan Müller / Stiftung Topographie des Terrors)

The Topography of Terror is the permanent exhibition of the Gestapo, SS and Reich Security main office on Wilhelm- and Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, in the heart of Berlin-Mitte. Tomorrow morning there will be a special free tour for Circus guests to the Topography of Terror, where a guide from the foundation will lead us through the five main sections of the exhibition: the Nationalist takeover of power, the Institutions of Terror (SS and Police), Terror, Persecution and Extermination on Reich Territory, SS and Reich Security Office in the Occupied Countries, and the End of the War and the Postwar Era.

The Topography of Terror has long won awards for its sensitive handling of this period of history, and developments over the past couple of years have cemented its place as one of Berlin’s most interesting and, indeed, world class exhibitions. The tour leaves from reception, and although it is free, you will need a public transport ticket. Circus guests who are interested in joining the tour should sign up at reception, as places are limited.

Cycling the Wall page2

With the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on the 9th November, we have put together a new DIY Tour that you can do on foot, or better, by bike…

Few things symbolised the Cold War more than the literal building of Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” – the Berlin Wall – overnight in August 1961. The borders between the eastern and western spheres of influence had long been closed, except for one loop-hole in the city of Berlin. The city had been split four ways through occupation back in 1945, with the three western

Allies (Britain, France and the United States) in charge of what would become known as West Berlin, whilst the centre and the east of the city was in the Soviet zone of occupation and would become the capital of the socialist German Democratic Republic.

In the years leading up to 1961 hundreds of thousands used Berlin’s unusual status as a way of fleeing to the west, until the East German regime closed the border in 1961 through the erection of what they called an “Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier”. The wall divided the city, neighbourhoods, communities and families, and would stand until November 1989. What we think of when we think of the wall, and parts of which can still be seen in Berlin, was the fourth generation structure known as “Grenzmauer 75”. But the wall was much more than just slabs of concrete, as the border was secured through anti-vehicle obstacles, trip wires, watchtowers, dog runs and kill zones.

Our intrepid explorer of Berlin – Jim – has not only ridden the entire Berlin Wall Trail, but he has put together this DIY Tour of the central stretch of the wall, that ran through the heart of the city, with some of the different things you can see along the way.

Download the Circus DIY Tour: Riding the Berlin Wall

stasilogo

The Ministry for State Security in communist East Germany was charged, in the main, with controlling and spying in the population, acting in its role as the “sword and shield of the party.” The Ministry was better known as the “Stasi”, and it is estimated that up to a quarter of a million citizens of the GDR worked as unofficial informants, which made it one of the most pervasive spying operations by any state against its own people in history.

Of course, being an organization charged with spying and other secret service operations, you could not find its headquarters on any map, but most East Berliners knew exactly what the large, anonymous complex in the neighbourhood of Lichterberg was and who worked there. The man whose name is most synonymous with the Stasi is that of its former head, Erich Mielke, whose office has been preserved as part of the Stasi

museum that was founded on the site by civil rights activists in 1990.

Tomorrow morning, we will be running one of our weekly free tours for Circus guests to the Stasi Museum in Lichtenberg. The tour will give you a sense of the nature and the work of the Stasi, which had its eyes and ears in all elements of everyday life, and is a fascinating look back into life during the days of East Germany.

The tour is open to all guests, but places are limited so you will need to sign up on reception. It is also important to note that although it is free, you will need public transport tickets to get there and back.

Date: Tuesday 9th October 2012-
Time: 9am (tour ends at 12 noon)

bauhaus small

This week the special Jimbo free tour for guests of the Circus has moved from its regular spot on a Tuesday morning to Wednesday, in order that we could include for the first time a very special tour to the Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design. Concerned with the research and presentation of the history and impact of the Bauhaus school of architecture and design (1919-1933), it is the most complete existing collection focusing on the history of the school and all aspects of its work. The collection is house in a building that was drafted by Walter Gropius, the founder of the school.

As always with our weekly tours, this is free for Circus guests who can sign up to join the tour at reception. For those of you not yet in Berlin, we can certainly recommend a visit to the Bauhaus museum, and you might be interested in this article from our friends at Slow Travel Berlin, which also appeared in the latest edition of the Circus Magazine.

Olympic Tour Two

The 1936 Olympics are famed because of a certain Jesse Owens making a mockery of Hitler’s ludicrous master race ideals when he won 4 gold medals. The Olympic village housed 3748 male athletes (the 328 women were else where closer to the stadium) in 140 apartment building and was designed to cater for the all the athletes needs, including swimming pools cinemas and 38 dining halls. After the games the village accommodated an Infantry regiment of the German Wehrmacht, who were subsequently replaced in 1945 for the next 47 years by the Soviet Army. The whole area now stands in ruins…

Tomorrow, Tuesday 7th August 2012, as part of our weekly Jimbo’s Crazy Tours, we will be running a second special tour for Circus guests to the Olympic Village out in the Brandenburg countryside. You will need to purchase a public transport system, but Jim will be on hand to get you there and back in one piece. Places are limited, so please come and sign up at the reception.

Olympic Tour One

The 1936 Olympics are famed because of a certain Jesse Owens making a mockery of Hitler’s ludicrous master race ideals when he won 4 gold medals. The Olympic village housed 3748 male athletes (the 328 women were else where closer to the stadium) in 140 apartment building and was designed to cater for the all the athletes needs, including swimming pools cinemas and 38 dining halls. After the games the village accommodated an Infantry regiment of the German Wehrmacht, who were subsequently replaced in 1945 for the next 47 years by the Soviet Army. The whole area now stands in ruins…

Tomorrow, Tuesday 31st July 2012, as part of our weekly Jimbo’s Crazy Tours, we will be running a special tour for Circus guests to the Olympic Village out in the Brandenburg countryside. You will need to purchase a public transport system, but Jim will be on hand to get you there and back in one piece. There will be a second tour to the Olympic Village next Tuesday (August 7th). Places are limited for both tours, so please come and sign up at the reception.

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