June 18, 2010

It’s been almost two weeks since our return from glorious Berlin. What an intense time it was. There is one particular thought and feeling that I can’t seem to let go of. The psychological terror that was executed by the National Socialists and the GDR was unlike any that I ever read or heard of. Beginning with the National Socialists, my mind was blown with how quickly they turned Germany into a hardened police state to be ruled with an iron fist. They wasted no time in showing the authoritarian rule that was to permeate throughout the country. There was a photo in The Topography of Terror that showed a typical German city street right before Hitler was given the position of Chancellor. Next to it was a photo of a city street after Hitler was put in office. SA soldiers were marching down the street in a show of power and it appeared that the entire city was draped in flags adorned with the swastika emblem. That imagery was very profound to me. I know that many Germans were buying into and cooperating with the new ruling party, but psychologically that must have been terrifying to most. Whether you liked or were being persuaded to dislike Jewish people, you had to have still been somewhat of a compassionate human being. Watching families being removed from their homes and businesses, and being paraded through town to unknown destinations had to have a profound effect on German citizens. The way in which the National Socialists did mostly everything out in the open for all to see sent the ultimate example of fear into the hearts of its citizens. I couldn’t imagine watching an entire ethnic group being systematically removed from society. At the same time, with these acts of terror being done in public, there was no mystery as to what was really happening. I wasn’t aware until this trip of all the public humiliation that went on. As awful as this time was, it also boggles my mind at how thorough and intelligently thought out the National Socialists were during their reign of terror. Gaining power and control through public humiliation and terror. Although there are many images that have been constantly in my thoughts since leaving Berlin, this is one of the more prominent ones. The shaving of these women’s heads and their parade through town before being taken to one of the many concentration camps for having relations with Jews are any other person deemed undesirable by the new ruling party. The crowd of people watching this spectacle seem to give the feeling of the mixed emotions that had to be running through Germany. I have to think that even the ones that found this amusing had to have some repercussions psychologically with the terror being presented to them on a regular basis.

As far as the GDR and the terror they inflicted, there was also a great element of public atrocities that displayed their power and created a stage for psychological affliction. Their immense system of spying and informing caused a tremendous outbreak of paranoia and anxiety. The propaganda they used to paint a picture of a prosperous and socially healthy Germany also struck my attention. This picture taken at the German History Museum is a perfect example of this. I believe this photo illustrated a passiveness in the name of prosperity the GDR was trying to paint to keep their citizens preoccupied. In truth, this image was a contradiction to what was really happening. How fragile we all are.


One comment

  1. Shawn, the last two pictures were taken in West Berlin during and following an anti-Shah protest.

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