• Sheryl Gwyther

#10 Berlin ... a city of stories


If ever there was a city of stories and books, Berlin is it. This city abounds in bookshops - catering for all tastes, languages, sexual orientation, creeds, philosophies and genres like comedy, sci-fi and fantasy, crime, children's books, romance, every non-fiction subject under the sun, and so much more. Yes, bookshops just devoted to one particular subject - imagine that!

OTHERLAND ... sci-fi and fantasy. Two doors down, HAMMETT ... crime novels.

The most poignant encounter of our time here so far happened the other day. I knew about the subject, and about the memorial constructed for this particular place in the city. When we encountered it, its simple visual impact and its reason for being is even more powerful.

At number 1, Bebelplatz, in front of the Humboltz University is a cobbled square. On the far edge of is a sunken glass plate between the pavement. Look down through the glass and you will see a room full of empty bookshelves. The art work of the Israeli artist Micha Ullman is called "Library".

The subterranean bookshelves could accommodate about 20,000 books - in memory of the approximately 20,000 books, which the Nazis burnt on May 10th, 1933 on this very place. THis video shows the event with the Nazi, Dr Goebbles' speech.

Works by journalists, writers, scientists and philosophers, seen as a threat to the Nazi ideology included Erich Kaestner, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, John Galsworthy, Jack London, Rosa Luxemburg, August Bebel, Albert Einstein, Emile Zola, Helen Keller and many more were thrown upon the flames. Those students who supported the regime joined in.

On that pavement, the memorial plaque is simple. The words straight to the point. On the left side is a quote from renowned poet and thinker, Heinrich Heine, written 100 years before.

There, where they burn books, they burn in the end people. Heinrich Heine 1820

#BookshopsinBerlin #freedomofthought