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November 10, 2005 By:
Ben G. Frank, JE Feature
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what remains of the Berlin Wall

Berlin likes to pride itself on the fact that it's not just the capital of Germany, but the capital of Europe. Most visitors concur: Berlin possesses the ingredients to become the European cultural capital, if it isn't already. After all, 170 museums, three opera houses, eight orchestras and 17 theaters, as well as 300 communal and private galleries, and more than 250 public libraries make it a growing travel destination.

Reunification has made Berlin "a work in progress": Building skyscrapers; restoring museums; setting up huge urban satellites in squares such as Potsdamer Platz, which has become a new urban district, a major point for culture and communications.

This complex consists of seven buildings surrounding a colorful plaza. In the center of the complex stands the Forum, a flood-lighted public piazza under a spectacular roof of glass, steel and fabric, where people meet for lunch or dinner in the many eateries. Here rises Sony's magnificent, modern European headquarters, as well as the Daimler–Chrysler building.

The scene of much death and destruction in the 20th-century, Berlin reminds us of the horrors of fascism and communism. Germany was the perpetrator and murderer of 6 million Jews, and it was in a suburb of Berlin that the Holocaust was planned.

Berlin, whose prewar Jewish population was about 170,000, has built and installed reminders of that brutality. The new "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe"; the moving architecture of the Jewish museum; the many individual memorials to Holocaust victims throughout the city are there to be seen, visited and felt, never to forget.

The "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe," unveiled by the government this past May, is located in the center of the city, near the Brandenberg Gate and the Reichstag, and the new American Embassy, and even a short distance from Hitler's bunker.

Berliners and tourists cannot miss it.

Since first opening, the Holocaust memorial has become one of the capital's most visited sites, with up to 10,000 visitors experiencing daily the unique sensation of strolling through the narrow rows and concrete blocks of the memorial. To date, international guests from 30-plus countries have made the memorial part of their Berlin travel agenda.

Jewish leaders stress that this memorial is not that of the Jewish community per se. It is a government memorial. Many Jews here feel that the true Holocaust memorial is at the Jewish museum because of its unique design and architecture, even though the museum insists it is not a Holocaust museum, that it is a museum of two millennia of German-Jewish history, with exhibits portraying Jewish life, including documents on the Nazi period.

The Jewish museum makes a trip to "Jewish Berlin" worthwhile. If Berlin truly is one of the most exciting cities in Europe, especially in the area of architecture, this museum - created by the architect Daniel Libeskind - is no exception.

Traveling here has become easier: Two new nonstop flights from the United States to Berlin on Delta and Continental Airlines from New York and Newark began this summer.

Welcoming Jewish visitors and tourists is one of the best up-scale, five-star hotels in Berlin, the Ritz-Carlton, which is offering a two night package including a visit to the "Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe."

A 90-minute-guided tour begins at the front of the hotel, and brings visitors to the memorial and includes stops at the Central Consistorie of Jews in Germany and the cemetery at Grosse Hamburger Strasse. Day two of the package includes a tour to the Jewish Museum.

And while you're at it: "The Jewish Berlin of the '20s," part of "Jewish Culture Days," is planned throughout the city from Nov. 27 to Dec. 11.u

For more information on travel to Berlin, visit: www. berlin-tourist-information.de/ index.

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