04 January 2014

Diversity Destroyed, Berlin, February 2013

The Portrait Exhibition, part of Diversity Destroyed marking the destruction of Bohemian Berlin in 1933
Platz des 18. März, Berlin, 6th February, 2013
On 30th January 1933 German President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor, thus cementing the fate of Germany and the Western world. Throughout last year Berlin marked this appalling anniversary with a series of exhibitions grouped together under the banner of Diversity Destroyed.

At the end of the Weimar Republic, Berlin was one of the most vibrant centres of culture in the world, a city which celebrated artistic diversity and welcomed thinkers, dreamers and artists of all backgrounds in to its theatres, academies, galleries and streets. In the last election of the Republic in March of that year, the city overwhelmingly rejected the Nazis with Left-wing parties doing particularly well. The Enabling Act that transferred total power to Hitler was opposed in the parliament only by the Socialists, and few of their elected representatives survived to see the end of that fateful year and the greater horrors that followed.

The Diversity Destroyed series of mainly outdoor exhibitions commemorated the lost thinkers, artists and radicals who vanished - murdered or exiled in 1933 and over the subsequent twelve years. The photo above was taken at Platz des 18. März at the Brandenburg Gate on a chilly midnight stroll last February. The piece featured more than 200 portraits of those who were targeted, as the introduction on the front plaque explained:
An inconceivable number of artists, writers, composers, theatrical performers and producers, doctors, lawyers and teachers, who had all contributed to the vibrant urban cultural scenery of early 1930s Berlin, fell victim to the Nazi regime’s policies of marginalization and persecution–either because their very existence was contrary to the Nazis’ racist and anti-Semitic worldviews, or because their art was perceived as ‘un-German’ or politically unsavoury. The Nazi terror brought countless successful careers to an abrupt end and stifled promising young talents. Berlin’s colourful and decidedly international cultural scene was replaced with the uniform cultural landscape of the Nazis’ enforced political integration. No trace of those who were marginalized, exiled, deported or murdered was to remain in collective memory–all record of their existence was to be permanently destroyed.

Today, some eight decades later, having long since regained our cultural diversity and in recognition of its immense value, we wish to commemorate the lives of these men and women and to reveal the faces behind their stories in a large open-air exhibition – now to visit at Brandenburger Tor, since 21st of February at Lustgarten. These exhibition will feature over 200 portraits in total, including well-known personalities such as Albert Einstein and Bertolt Brecht, alongside numerous lesser known musicians, photographers, comedians, writers, variety artists and circus performers.
You can read more about the lives of those featured on the accompanying website here.

The interwebs are full of enough hackneyed comparisons of trivial contemporary events to genuine historical atrocities already. There is no ulterior purpose to this post beyond taking a moment to remember something that moved me deeply last year.

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