Monday, 10 August 2015

Wandering the Wannsee

When it comes to parks and lakes, Berlin can't be beat.

One of the pleasures of living in West Berlin is that I am just a 15-minute train ride from the beautiful Wannsee, the beautiful lake in the West of the city. It boasts a beautiful sandy beach (the largest inland beach in Europe), stunning castles, breathtaking biking trails and even an island full of peacocks.

This is the Berlin I've dreamed about living in for so long.

I've been going to the Wannsee beach just about every other day over the past month. Some days I take my laptop and do work on the boardwalk. Other days I bike over to the lake (it takes about 30 minutes from my apartment) and just ride around. You can't get anything like this in a normal city. This is Berlin.

One of the less pleasant things to see in Wannsee however is the villa which was the site of the Wannsee Conference (pictured). This was the meeting at which the Nazis devised the 'final solution' for the 'Jewish question'.

The villa has been turned into a holocaust museum, and it is truly eery to be there. You are greeted by these lush gardens, and at the front gate statues of two angels smile down on you innocently. While inside, you can look across the lake at the beach (view pictured below).

As the conference went on, there would have been care-free beachgoers swimming just across the lake. It really struck me, the dichotomy between the pleasure-seeking happening on the beach that day in 1942, and the horrors which were being hatched in full view.

Inside the museum, there was a whole section countering the myth that German citizens would not have known what was happening in the death camps. It showed editorials from leading Nazi officials explaining what was happening and why it was needed, and even a movie reel showing German actors referencing what was happening in a film of the day.

But for me, the idea of the bathers swimming in full view of the Wannsee Conference was the most potent symbol of the complicity of inaction.

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