German keyboards have the Y and Z keys switched but almost everything else is the same... also on the Humboldt computer, German nouns (cognates in English) are capitalized. And almost everything has a squiggly red line under it, since English is "incorrect." Also it takes me like 3 minutes and a bunch of squinting to figure out where punctuation is, since that's different too. (These parentheses and every single apostrophe are an adventure to find every time I need them.) So! As implied, I was able to get Internet access at the Grimm library at Humboldt and have my own nice library card, good for one month! It's nice being able to access the Internet again and not have to resort to my tiny phone screen for research or typing these blog posts. However, it is arguably not as nice to fall out of and procede to break a chair in the silent computer room. Grounds for deportation, I think. But onwards to more adventures made in Week 3 in Berlin!
This week was filled with really cool visits and explorations of the city-- a new goal of mine is to visit one new place or neighborhood everyday. I don't want to settle into a routine so much that I gain a sense of familiarity with Berlin, when obviously I haven't even grazed the tip of what this city has to show me. That being said, I am really enjoying beginning to gain my footing and be able to navigate the U- and S-Bahns with ease and, dare I say, prowess. Likewise, I've noticed that I'm able to generally know how to get around in Berlin's central areas, and know that if I go down this street, I'll get to Hackescher Markt, or if I go this way, I'll be at the Tiergarten. I really like the feeling of knowing where I'm going and being able to blend into the culture more and more. Even my German skills are showing improvement-- words I once knew trickle back in to my memory, triggered by a street sign or an advertisement, reminding me of my last German class 3 years ago. It's slowly dawning on me, however, that this coming week (Week 4) is my last week in Berlin. Only fleeting nights will be left, one before leaving for Jena, a second upon our return, and finally the night before I leave back to the States.
Probably one of the most affecting things I did this week was visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Before visiting, I was doing some research as this memorial is part of my project. I read an article that noted that while "Denkmal" is the word for a memorial, "Mahnmal" is used for this particular memorial. According to the article, this had a special meaning that translated to "warning memorial." I think this gives a really interesting insight into how Germany views their past and representations of their past-- building structures that signify to future generations a sense of shame and warning to never repeat the past. While perhaps slavery is the American equivalent I keep coming back to, I still think it's interesting that there are no "Mahnmals" for America-- no warning monuments about modern day racism. Perhaps this indicates a lack of shame and regret on our country's part, even if slavery happened a long time ago compared to the Holocaust. Even so, more recent U.S. war memorials don't give warnings for future wars, but instead revel in the American sense of pride and the symbolically obligatory, yet still heroic, actions of the men and women fighting for the country. Aren't all wars a source of shame, for the lives lost on all fronts? As I write this on the Fourth of July, remind me again what we're fighting for? Perhaps it's easy to be against war when there are no impending international conflicts and I can't understand the sentiments or emotions that are involved in such times, but overall I don't support or understand the point of war.
Back to the memorial-- I was very affected. The monument, huge slabs of concrete with no writing or informational plaques, grows slowly. Soon, the concrete towers over you and all but consumes you. The ground inclines and declines in little waves of hills (still not sure if this was the natural terrain). A lot is left up to personal interpretation, which I liked. While there was an information center, the memorial itself was very public and didn't have a set flow or path-- you could wander in out and around as you pleased, whereas other monuments generally have a logical path to follow, even visually if not typographically. As such, the entire monument depended on the visitor's previous knowledge of the history and context behind it, which makes for a more personal and emotional visit.
Though, the fact that there were people taking selfies and pictures atop the concrete structures doesn't sit right with me. What are the motivations for inserting yourself, smiling, into this memorial dedicated to the tragedy of the past? Another question to ponder over as I continue my research in the growing German heat.
(In related news! My computer is in the shop and ready for pickup on Monday. Here's hoping it holds up...)