The 1920's signaled the emergence of Berlin as a major European city, even though the atmosphere of the First World War still lingered in the air. The city was now a bustling center of business, industry and internal problem most of which were leading to strikes led by unions and trade groups. The overall tension kept building but never boiled to much until Adolf Hitler took over in the middle of the 1930's.
The city was about to change for eternity, a regime so powerful and cruel had arrived that the history of the events that were created haunt people to this day. These are the facts that most people remember Hitler for, but there was a softer side inside him which led to the desire to expand Berlin into a pure paradise of a city. Call it fantasy, Hitler had ideals in his mind, which he revealed through sketches, of a perfect city. After becoming frustrated with the Ministry of Planning, he bestowed his biggest dreams on the shoulders of long term personal architect, Albert Speer. He hoped that Speer would put his rich-fantasy life plan onto paper and make reality out of his dream. The main objective was to superimpose the "New Berlin" onto the existing one, adding finesse and power to the outlay. The center core of the plans had a Grand Boulevard surrounded by huge buildings and fed by a central North-South axial streetway with distinct features at either end. These features were taken from images of other cities especially Rome and Paris. To the North would lie a Great Hall where parliament would rule and to the South would lie a Huge Archway. Further South would be a new railway station built in such a way that as you exit, you look straight through the arch and onto the Great Hall, an image of power and beauty. The station was meant to de-congest the center of the city and leave trams to operate between residential areas to the work place.
The plans are idealistic seeing as there is the River Spree to add to the beauty together with acres of forest, I suppose it would have become a reality had it not been for the Second World War. Destruction, the one word that can vividly describe the events of World War II on Berlin. The people of Berlin were in a living hell as described by Norman Gelb on page 22 of his book "The Berlin Wall".
"Craters, caves, mountains of rubble, debris-covered fields ruins that hardly allowed one to imagine that they had once been houses, cables and water pipes projecting from the ground like the mangled bowels of antediluvian monsters, no fuel, no light, every little garden a graveyard and, above all, like an immovable cloud, the stink of putre- faction. In this no man's land lived human beings. Their life was a daily struggle for a handful of potatoes a loaf of bread, a few lumps of coal, some cigarettes."
The passage describes suffering of the Berlin people. The city which was once considered as the focal point of Europe was in the middle of a Cold War between America and Russia, the result of which led to the inheritance of the Soviet lifestyle into the East Berliners and eventually to the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. The war was taking a huge toll on the people, the population was split in half, most of whom were over forty years of age. The city was "dying of old age", at least that was the impression you got from the outside. Internally however, life was settling down, re-building had started and the present day Berlin was in the making. The 1960's had signaled the word 'change' again. Ruins had turned into office buildings, apartments, boulevards and cars were crowding the once empty streets. The Wall, even though it symbolized a form of discrimination, had become a huge tourist attraction, the city was once again bustling. When you read the sentence by Martin Hillenbrand in his conclusion of his book "The Future of Berlin", you get the idea that the people of Berlin want a better life.
"With the right mixture of optimism and realism, planning and execution, Berlin can become that model of a creative city.."
Today Berlin is just that creative and admirable as one could hope. The mixture has been made and the division of the past is lost, the city and the country are once again united. The boom, probably due to industrialization, in Berlin began way back in the 1960's, today the people enjoy the fruits of that hard work. Berlin is once again a tourist and cultural center. With a population of 16.7 million people, the culture is diverse, so are the images of the town, from scenic to urban, from quiet to bustling, from a nightspot to a play-goers home. The Berlin suburbs and country-side are filled with 40.3 square miles of forest and lakes(vastly reduced over the past years). This provides ample space for walks, rides, yachting, pleasure-boating and swimming, sun-bathing and relaxing, a basic tourist attraction. There is also the famous Tiergarten, a 167 hectare park full of entertainment including the Berlin Zoo in the South-West corner. To convey Berlin's and the World's history, The Museum Island lies in the heart of old East Berlin. With the more famous Pergamon Museum housing the magnificent Ishtar Gate lined with Bulls and Dragons, the Pergamon Altar, the market gate of Miletus and huge numbers of Islamic art. Then there is the Schinkel, The National Gallery and the Neus, all of which portray images of the world from Asia to Egypt, some dating back for centuries. The history of Berlin gains special treatment through the help of video and piece collection at the National Museum. Here it is possible to put together the life of Hitler, the terror he spread and how Berlin changed over the last quarter of a century.
Lavish and upper class can describe most of Berlin's theaters. They are probably at the center of the cultural hearts of many native Berliners, but the performances are geared to all audiences especially those with interest in Berlin's past. The most famous people are celebrated in these productions, Karl Marx, Lenin, Engels all of whom changed the life of so many inhabitants of Berlin. Play houses like the Komische Oper, Deutsche Staatsorep and the Fredericus Rex Apollini et Musi are all famous for quality opera and music.
With 5,000 restaurants and bars, countless retail operations, the diversity of the people and a huge student population, Berlin has once again become one of the focal points in Europe, a center of education, and a city full of entertainment.
Stephen D. Helmer Hitler's Berlin, The Speer Plan for reshaping the city. 1985 (1stEDN) (NA9200 B4H37 1985)
Alan Balfow Berlin 1995 (2ndEDN) (NA1085 B45 1995)
T.H. Elkins(B. Hofmeister) Berlin The Spatial Strucure of a Divided City. 1988 (1stEDN) (DD866 E44 1988)
Walter Henry Nelson The Berliners Their Saga and Their City. 1969 (DD881 F69)
Martin J. Hillenbrand The Future of Berlin. 1980 (DD881 F85 cop.2)
John Borneman After the Wall East meets West in the new Berlin. 1991 (DD881 B675 1991).