Zerstörte Vielfalt – Diversity Destroyed

March 18, 2013

Germany

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In Berlin, 2013 is running under the theme “Zerstörte Vielfalt” (Engl: Diversity Destroyed), due to the 80th anniversary of the Nazis gaining power in 1933, and 75th anniversary of the November Pogrom in 1938 (also known as the Crystal Night or Night of Broken Glass). Several exhibitions and events are taking place around Berlin throughout the year, to commemorate the diversity of society in the world metropole Berlin, and its destruction by the Nazi regime.

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The winter edition of Berlin’s Long Night of Museums, which took place on Saturday this past weekend, also stood under the theme, and to kick off the night we from Museum140 organised another one of our MuseUps, together with the Kulturprojekte Berlin. This time our MuseUp tour took us through the open-air portrait exhibition at Berlin’s Lustgarten, which highlights the fates of 240 persecuted individuals. We hadn’t reckoned with the freezing point temperatures, but nonetheless around 30 people turned up (although tweeting activity was a bit down on previous MuseUps, as people kept their hands firmly in their pockets).

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The tour started off with a general introduction to the exhibition: The 240 portraits are just a selection of hundreds that could have been chosen, so are not to be seen as a ‘best of’ list. Whilst some are well known celebrities such as movie star Marlene Dietrich, others are virtually unknown today but were chosen for the exhibition because of their significant contributions to society. Not all the selected portraits were Jews, many were persecuted for other reasons.

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Our guide then chose six portraits to focus on in more detail. First up was Marlene Dietrich herself. In the 1920s, Berlin was the cultural centre of Germany and one of the largest in Europe. Over 90% of German movies were made in Berlin.We learned that Dietrich had actually already left Germany, but Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, later tried to persuade her to come back and  promote the German culture and Nazi cause. But Dietrich refused and openly protested by entertaining the American troops instead.

The other portraits we were introduced to included:

  • Cora Berliner, one of the first women to hold a professorship in economics. She was deported and murdered for helping hundreds of Jews to escape, and sadly could not save herself.
  • Bernhard Weiss, Vice President of Berlin’s police force. He escaped to London as was named on the Nazi’s first expatriation list.
  • Paul Hindemith, who was persecuted because the Nazi’s didn’t like his modern music. He wouldn’t believe they detested him, but eventually left the country after his music was banned and branded degenerate.
  • Nissim Zacouto, Berlin’s most prestigious carpet wholesale trader. The Nazi’s couldn’t persecute him directly, as he was a Turkish not a German citizen, but they tried to make life as difficult as possible for him. When his Turkish citizenship was revoked, he fled to France where he rebuilt his carpet business.
  • Alfred Rotter, a theatre operator detested by the Nazis. He fled to Liechtenstein, where the Nazis tried to kidnap him, accidentally killing him in the process.

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The final stop of our tour was a a ‘memorial marker’, of which there are 11 scattered around the city in the historical locations that they refer to. The marker at the Lustgarten commemorates an incident from 1942, where resistance fighter  Herbert Baum carried out an arson attack on a propaganda exhibition.

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Saturday night was also the launch of the new online ‘Museumsportal’, which also falls under auspices of the Kulturprojekte Berlin, so we ended our tour with a glass of champagne to toast the occasion.

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Oh, and did I mention the moustaches? My friend Hie-suk, who runs the MuseUps with me, had made moustaches for everyone, as a fun and recognisable way to keep our group together. Here were are with Jasmin from the Kulturprojekte after a successful event.

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The exhibition continues until November 2013, so if you happen to be in Berlin before then I’d definitely recommend you drop by to visit. There are 234 further portraits to discover!

Check back on Wednesday to hear about the rest of my Long Night of Museums, including some awesome behind the scenes pictures at Berlin’s Natural History Museum!

 

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  1. Berlin Walking Tour | The World Looks Good - July 29, 2013

    […] Berlin of people who were persecuted because of their diversity. To read more about them, look at this blog post on Museum […]

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