At random, today I read a quite good blog post with a familiar photo. I offered to upload one of mine to show why I did not think to walk on the faces in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. All of the design, particularly the half wall, seemed to say not to:
The half wall in the photo does end, as it shows, and there was space to step out onto the faces. But it never occurred to me to do such a thing. I was one of two people in the room, and we both stayed carefully, respectfully, back.
I left at closing; I left when they asked me to go. I sat for a while trying to pull myself together in the garden. I took photos of their lush, white roses and tried to hold the experience without attempting to force my thoughts and feelings into a narrative.
Later that night, my wanderings took me to a place with a sign explaining it had been the site of Hitler’s bunker. Today it is an apartment complex, a parking lot, a weeping willow, and a broad lawn with a swing set. Here I did see signs telling me not to walk on but I ignored them. You would never know great evil had happened there. Somehow it seemed right to have only a small footnote. Somehow it seemed right to have normal life continue with children on swings just a few feet from Hitler’s end. Not to forget — never to forget — but not to make for a larger-than-life death, either. Here, too, the white roses thrive.
Berlin is a vibrant city. History tells, but Berlin is focused on the present and future. Contrast to Cologne. There it is a little clearer what Allied bombs did. I have not seen Dresden.