The profusion of commemorative landmarks across Berlin renders it Europe’s unofficial city of memory: from Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe to the more than 7000 Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) embedded into the city’s pavements which mark the former homes of deported Jews (the ongoing project of artist Gunter Demnig). Berlin’s memorials are not only visitor attractions but constant interruptions in the daily lives of tourists and locals alike. Germany’s track record in coming to terms with its National Socialist past is so thorough in many parts of the country that the Germans have a unique compound word to describe the process, vergangenheitsbewältigung.
Vergangenheitsbewältigung shapes not only the landscape but the very fabric of German society and culture. The most recently approved addition to this landscape, Monument to Freedom and Unity (Freiheits und Einheitsdenkmal, already referred to locally as the Unity Seesaw), constitutes a significant moment in Berlin’s commemorative history, characterised not by Vergangenheitsbewältigung but by celebration; 30 years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the monument (due to be inaugurated in 2019) commemorates the peaceful revolution that led to the reunification of East and West. read more