For two more pictures on This Week's Picture Archives, click here and here


Winter, with snow and days of extreme cold, is not the ideal time to visit Berlin; but that is when Eitan attended the European Bridge League Officers' Seminar. Our friend Ruthie Erez joined me and we toured the city, with Eitan joining us for the Jewish sights after the seminar.
Berlin is a huge city, about 15 times larger than Tel Aviv, with three centres. Needless to say we did not manage to see all of the city nor its amazing museums. Surprisingly, 6 days were not enough to see all that Berlin has to offer. Our hotel was bounded by a canal on one side, the snow-covered Tiergarten on the other with Potsdamplatz nearby by way of Ben Gurionstrasse. Under Ben Gurion's leadership, Israel recognised Germany in 1952, despite fervent opposition, thereby laying the foundations for German reparations to Israel. Formal diplomatic relations were only established in 1965, when the street was named.

Berlin's recent past is bracketed by the Holocaust and the Berlin Wall. Here Ruthie and I stand in front of the massive memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, symbolized by over 2700 tomb-like structures of different heights, set in row after endless row. When we arrived in Berlin it was -6ºC and the stones were covered with snow.

The Berlin Wall, diividing the city into East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1990 was made from  concrete blocks. Only a few parts remain.  To my bottom left is a picture of the Brandenburg Gate. Originally built in 1671 as an entrance to the city surrounded by a wall, that wall was demolished. When the city was divided in 1961 , the Brandenburg remained in no-man's land  until reunification. Graffiti covered the western side of the Wall; the eastern side remained blank as people were not allowed to approach the Wall, for fear of their trying to escape..
Ruthie tried currywurst, a famous Berlin sausage. In the end, a disappointing sausage smothered by ketchup with a sprinkling of curry powder.


This is Checkpoint Charlie, one of the few places where people could pass from East Germany to the West. The sign to the rightof the road informs people that they are leaving the American sector of Berlin. The western part of the city was further divided into British and French enclaves.

The Berlin wall 155km long, effectively divided the city to prevent escape from the communist regime. In 1963 my mother Gertie and I visited Berlin.Unfortunately I have no memory of the Checkpoint, but remember well the seemingly endless blocks of grey apartments around a large circle. Everything seemed grey on that side of the city. Today I can only wonder at the independent spirit of my mother to undertake such an adventurous trip.

My other indelible memory of Berlin was of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Bombed during WWII, inside the ruins was a statue of Jesus covered in red paint, symbolising blood. There was much to mourn about then. Germany had not yet  publicly undertaken to mourn her German Jewish citizens, but the Wall caused immensurable loss; loss of freedoms, economic deprivations and the inability to move from place to place. 
The remains of the church are presently undergoing strengthening. The staue of Jesus is still there, but clothed in its original pure white marble, under a stunning mosaic of Kaiser Wilhelm and his bride Augusta. (The Augusta Victoria Church on Mount Scopus was built by him.)

With our guide Lior from Gablinger Berlin Tours we visited Track 17 Memorial; at Grunewald. In Germany Jews had to wear the yellow Juden Star, their identity cards were stamped with a "J" and in addition men had to add "Israel" as their middle name while women had to add "Sarah." Ghettos were not established in Germany itself. Until 1941 Jews were forcibly encouraged to emigrate by loss of citizenship and jobs, by boycotts, pogroms and severe restrictions on all forms of their lives.  More than 50,000 of Berlin's 160,000 Jews did emigrate.

Starting in October 1941 (after the invasion into Russia) emigration was no longer an option. People were told that they could take two suitcases of 50 kilo each and had to walk over 10 km  to Grunewald Track 17. Only the severely disabled were transported by trucks. Track 17 today has trees growing on the tracks on either side of the station siding, so that no train can ever leave the station. Alongside the platform are metal plaques, marking the date, number of Jews deported, the name Berlin and the destination.We couldn't help noticing that the first transports mainly to Riga but also to Lodz were either 50 or 100 in number. Lior told us that there were 50 seats to a carriage. The Jews had to buy a ticket for their deportation. If they didn't have enough money their houses were confiscated in lieu of tickets! 

The Gestapo paid the railways who made a fortune from forced transport of Jews. In 1943 the numbers on the transport increased dramatically when Jews were rounded up in the factories where they worked and taken directly to  Track 17. Most were taken to Thereseinstadt and from there to Auschwitz.

The Deutsche Bahn Railway, even after reunification, had great dificulty in even mentioning its role in the deportation of Jew. The memorial, erected in 1998, consists of 186 plaques of which three are blank as details are not known. Horrfyingly, the last tranport took place on 27 March 1945, a week before the end of the war; deportation and destruction of Jews remained a high priority even when Germany was clearly losing the war.


This difficulty in recognising responsibilty is further reflected by the three memorials erected on the way to Track 17.  The first memorial was erected by private citizens in October 1987. It consists of three railway sleepers with a simple dedication to "the People who were deported." Note that there is no mention that they were Jewish.  The small stone columns are a later addition. On the way to Track 17 is the third memorial, from 1991, which has a concrete wall with parts missing, symbolizing the deported Jews. The plaque here specifically mentions Berlins' Jews deported and murdered.

The Block of Women Memorial honours the 600 women and children who protested here opposite the Jewish Welfare Administration building in February 1943. Until then Mischlinge (mixed) marriages were tolerated and the Jewish spouses of Aryans were not deported. As part of the Factory Aktion of February 1943 some  2,000 Jews, mostly men, were detained together with about another 6,000 Jews destined for deportation. After a week of peaceful demonstration, the spouses were released with the understanding that they would replace some of the Jews rounded up in the Factory Aktion.
The six-part memorial erected in 1991 was designed by Ingeborg Hunzinger, and is on the site of the Old Berlin Synagogue.


We were enthralled by a visit to the Brush and Broom Factory of Otto Weidt. Otto, a pacifist was partially blind. He had a factory in Rosenthallerstrasse where he protected some 30 visually impaired and deaf employing them. He bought food on the black market to supplement his workers' meagre rations. Together with a circle of helpers he bribed Gestapo officials, forged documents, and hid a family in his workshop (in a tiny room hidden behind the cupboard in the picture.).

When he could no longer protect his employees, he arranged for them to be transported to Thereseinstadt, which was mistakenly considered to be a 'better' concentration camp. He sent over 150 food parcels there. He managed to rescue Inge Deutschkorn, an amazing woman of 93 who still works at the Weidt Memorial.

When he heard that Alice Licht, who had worked in his office, was transferred from Thereseinstadt to Auschwitz, he travelled by train to Auschwitz, only to find that she has been taken to Christianstadt. He took a train there and rented an apartment where he left money and clothes. By bribing a Pole he was able to inform Alice about the arrangments. About to be taken on the Forced March, she managed to escape, find the apartment and eventually leave Germany.

Both Otto Weidt and his wife Elsie, togeher with other brave Germans involved in rescue were recognised as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.

Because the Berlin wall cut through Berlin eratically, it is not always possible to know if one is on the East or West side of Berlin. But reminders of the Holocaust are today everywhere. Embedded in the pavement are brass squares, remembering the names  of the Jews evicted from their houses at or near that location..


The New Synagogue of Berlin was inaugurated in 1866 in the presence of Otto von Bismark, who unified Prussia and Brandenburg into Germany. Bismark allowed the building to be as tall as the Jewish community wanted as long as it was lower than the Church. On Kristallnacht, when the synagogue was set afire Otto Bellgardt a policeman, claimed that it was a protected historical landmark that he was prepared to protect by gunfire if necessary. He then called the fire brigade, thus saving the synagogue. It was later damaged during the bombing of Berlin and only partially rebuilt.
A grand Moorish structure, it reflects the elevated status of German's Jews in the 19th Century.


On our last day in Berlin we took the train to Potsdam where we visited various imposing palaces of Frederick Great and Frederick IV. Click here for "This Week's Picture" of Eitan, Ruthie and I taken in front of San Soucci the 'modest'  private palace of  Frederick the Great. We could only imagine how the gardens looked in summer with the terraces blanketed by the greens of grape vines and fig trees. Potsdam is a delightful small town and deserved more time than we  had available.

Our last stop was at the nearby Wannsee Palace. On 20 January 1942 Reinhard Heydrich convened senior Nazi officials at Wannsee to discuss the implementation of the Final Solution of the Jews, moving from mass murder to planned genocide. The whole meeting lasted for 90 minutes, including drinks and cigars afterwards.  Heydrich was to be in overall charge of implementation. Adolph Eichman was present and conducted the proceedings. Today we know that the decision to eliminate the Jews from the face of the earth had been previously decided upon by a higher echelon (Hitler), although there is no written record of this. Only one copy of the Wannsee Protocol was found, the rest were destroyed..

 And so the fate of one third of the Jewish people was sealed while the world looked on.