Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ok, but would you want to live there?

Berlin seems to be making a habit out of making luxury housing out of buildings where terrible things happened. A popular tourist attraction in the middle of the most yuppified corner of Prenzlauerberg, the Wasserturm now houses twenty or so exclusive apartments.


The problem? During the Third Reich the building was used as a sort of make-shift concentration camp where socialists, communists and Jews were held without trial and yes, also sometimes murdered.

The ehemalige Kammergericht on Lieztensee lake in Charlottenburg has recently been turned into luxurious lofts with an Upper East Side flair. The problem? It is the old military court used during the Third Reich to judge those who opposed the Nazis (those who were given a trial that is...) Though the judged should have been given a medal, most of them were, of course, sentenced to death.

Of a different historical nature, there is also this old prison in Friedrichhain which they are in the process of transforming into exclusive lofts. Jasper and cycled by the construction site last summer and saw that the old watch tower was still standing in the middle, though I hope to god they tear it down.

Near my apartment in Kreuzberg there is also this psychiatric hospital. Right now it is still in use, but rumor is a developer bought it and in the next couple of year it will also be made into lofts.

I don't think anyone needs this blog to know that Germany has some very dark history to live down. What a lot of people don't know, however, is that the generations of Germans following the war have been pretty much crippled with shame and guilt; Jasper, who was born in 1965, has often told me he can't even imagine what it would feel like to be proud to be German. Only now, with the generation of my young daughters and maybe the one before them, are people beginning to feel somewhat freer.

Maybe all these expensive housing projects are a symptom. Could it be seen as positive that the past can be forgotten enough that all we see now are beautiful buildings which can be made into expensive apartments for all those rich people from Swabia who love to move here? I don't know. Maybe it's the Californian in me, but I still believe strongly in bad vibrations. Gorgeous buildings they may be, but I wouldn't want to live in any of them.

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