08 October 2011

Day 280 (Julie Mollins, Guest Blogger)

During my absence (in honor of Yom Kippur), I am very grateful for Julie Mollins filling in for me (especially since I asked her at the last moment). Julie, aside from being a London-based journalist working at Reuters (AlertNet) with an interest in the arts, also has a couple blogs of her own: her self-titled Julie Mollins, and one she calls Telling Tales. Clearly, she's a very busy woman, which makes me even more honored that she agreed to cover for me... so without further ado, here's Julie...

Battling borders

I’ve often thought about how much more difficult setting up a new life in London would have been without social media.

Through Twitter, since moving to London from Toronto in 2008, I’ve been able to make new friends in England and keep in touch with old friends in Canada.

When I was a child, my mother -- who is English and emigrated to Canada with my Canadian father in the 1960s -- relied on snail-mail letters from family and friends to stay in touch.

I’m lucky because I have a Canadian and a British passport, which means I can travel freely to Canada, Britain, the United States and the 27 countries of the European Union without needing a visa.

Last weekend I went to Berlin, where invisible and visible borders destroyed so many lives in the 20th century.

Nazi rule in Germany after 1933 destroyed Berlin’s roughly 200,000-strong Jewish community by enforcing exile to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp or to death camps.

After the Second World War, Berlin was divided first into four sectors among Russia, France, Britain and the U.S. and later, in 1961, split into communist East Berlin and capitalist West Berlin.

The Berlin Wall, constructed to prevent an exodus from east to west during the Cold War, separated families and friends again until it was smashed in 1989.

Now the city commemorates the Holocaust with the dramatic Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, designed by Patrick Eisenman, and engineer Buro Happold, made up of concrete slabs, and via tributes in the decade-old Jewish Museum, designed partly by architect Daniel Libeskind.

The divisive wall is also commemorated throughout the city with markings on the ground, pieces of wall and a museum at Checkpoint Charlie, which marks the border crossing between the old East and West Berlin.

Estimates vary, but between 100 and 200 people were killed trying to escape from east to west.

To a tourist, reconstruction, reconciliation and remembrance characterise modern-day Berlin.

Old scars remain.

- Another rant via BlogPress

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