Bebelplatz. This is a wonderful square in Berlin, flanked on three sides by wonderful architecture and formerly known as Opernplatz.
Before the book burning, that is.
Bebelnacht - 10th May, 1933 - the night when 20,000 banned books were burned.
Click here or on list to read more (from Wikipedia, and a jolly well written article it is too … )
There is also an inscription here from one of the banned and burned authors, Heinrich Heine, who wrote in 1821:
"Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen"
"Where they burn books, they ultimately burn people".
Yes. Indeed. A truth foretold.
Bebelnacht is marked by a very simple plate glass window in the cobblestones.
In daylight you can’t really see so clearly. Under the window is a white, empty shelved room.
It was an amazing place to visit - quietly unassuming yet direct and to the point; which is like so many memorials in Berlin.
I had to adjust to seeing beautiful things commemorating dreadful happenings. But we have to be reminded that our shiny world is capable of such things. To be warned that once you start telling people what they can and cannot read, things can go rapidly downhill.
Although I saw more emotive and strident memorials and places in Berlin, this wins hands down on simplicity and profundity.
It was the place where I felt the most sadness, solar-plexus-numbing sadness. For all that happened then and all that was to come in both the war and the 28 years of The Wall that followed, and for all that may happen in the future.
I met an elderly Italian couple at the edge and we talked quietly, in appalling pigeon French and Italian - so desperate were we to be able to communicate and share this tristesse/tristezza (we got there in the end!!)
Then, after walking for a gazillion hours, on my way home, I returned to see it properly. After all it was built to commemorate something that took place at night.
It quite literally glows with nothingness.