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2 • The German Citizen • May - June 2024                                   Handy guide to Berlin’s history
      Perspectives . . . . .                                      By Martin Ederer
      Perspectives .

                                                                       he first impression a visitor
                                                                       gets of Berlin is its size and
     Unruly universities                                          Tscale. The city is made up of
                                                                  12 boroughs and occupies a huge
       We expect more from well-educated individuals. We expect civility,  footprint. There are cities within
     understanding, dialog and respect. What we see at universities across  the city, and also huge tracts of
     the country, however, is worse than a daycare melee – violent protests  green space. It also ranks as the
     at Yale, 108 people arrested at Columbia, more arrests at New York  largest city in both Germany and
     University, Antisemitic threats and attacks at other institutions.  within the European Union.
       Jewish students are in fear for their safety. Vile, hateful anti-Semitic  Plainly put, over the course of the
     slurs are yelled at students. And, not just this week, it’s been going on  last few centuries, Berlin was laid
     for months. Rebecca Massell wrote a piece in Rolling Stone Magazine  out to be a world class city – and it
     in November – "Antisemitism Is Infecting My College Campus — And  delivers.
     So Many Others." Under the headline it noted: "A neo-Nazi march. An  As European cities go, Berlin
     on-campus assault. Dozens of antisemitic taunts and threats. Hatred is  in Brandenburg is a fairly young
     becoming more common on campuses like mine. And worse still, it’s  city. First mentions of the city date
                                                                  to the 1200s. But a lot of history
     viewed as acceptable."                                       has taken place there. Although we
       Faculty are targeted as well. Mary Jane Rein wrote a piece in the  view Berlin as the quintessentially
     Wall St. Journal "Why I’m Leaving Clark University."         German capital, it had no such role
       She noted: "Among the many ills plaguing higher education is a  as anything but a regional capital  Berlin became the capital of the German Empire in 1871 and expanded
     lack of civility, friendship and intellectual humility. I observed this  during the medieval First Reich.  rapidly in the following years. Reproduction by Photoglob AG, Zürich,
     firsthand on March 13, when an unruly and hate-filled audience shut  At that time numerous capitals ex‐  Switzerland or Detroit Publishing Company, Detroit, Michigan. This
     down a lecture I helped organize at Worcester State University.  isted. Imperial diets routinely met
     Because of the response of my own institution, Clark University, I am  at a whole list of cities both inside  image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and
     resigning my position as executive director of Clark’s Strassler Center  and outside of what today is Ger‐  Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsca.00340.
     for Holocaust and Genocide Studies."                         many.                          became a prime destination for  much of the history of the 20th
       Even President Joe Biden commented on the campus unrest saying:  Berlin has Slavic origins. A  many of them.            century, starting with the Reichstag
     “This blatant Antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous – and it has  good many neighborhood names  Once the Elector Frederick III  Fire and the ensuing Enabling Act.
     absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country.”  reflect that heritage, with suffixes  was granted the title of King in  Hitler, together with Albert Speer,
       Institutions of higher education were supposed to be a place where  of -ow, -itz, and -itsch. Earliest  Prussia in 1701 for his service to  launched major plans to transform
     tolerance and diversity of opinion were to be the norm. There was a  settlers included Slavic Lusatians,  the Holy Roman Emperor, Bran‐  Berlin into “World Capital Germa‐
     time not long ago when colleges taught about Mohandas Gandhi and  Wends and Polabians. Then there  denburg-Prussia effectively became  nia.” Berlin hosted the 1936 Sum‐
     Dr. Martin Luther King and non-violent, peaceful protests. Instead  were the German tribes, the Swabi‐  a kingdom. Berlin replaced  mer Olympics.
     there are even reports of professors baiting Jewish students.  ans and Burgunds who settled the  Königsberg as the kingdom’s new  As Nazi Germany’s capital,
                                                                  region and became the dominant
       It is reasonable to expect civility, understanding and respect from all  presence as Germans expanded  capital. Frederick the Great then  Berlin became the nerve center for
     individuals. It is reasonable to expect dialog and a quest for  their reach eastward, a long-stand‐  embarked on big building projects  the Nazi prison and camp system,
     understanding at institutions of higher learning.            ing medieval German project.   for Berlin as he also brought En‐  and some of Nazi Germany’s most
       What we see, however, is chaos and the lack of reason and     By the 12th century the Berlin  lightenment ideas to his capital.  infamous atrocities. Allied bomb‐
     intellectual discourse at some of the "top" universities in this country.  region had become part of the Mar‐  Russian forces briefly occupied the  ings during World War II and then
                                                                                                                               the Soviet battle for Berlin in 1945,
                                                                                                 city during the Seven Years’ War,
     It puts a new spin on Nelson Mandela’s statement: "Education is the  gravate of Brandenburg, founded  and Napoleon’s forces did the same  devastated the city. Well over
     most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."  by the very German Albert the  in 1806.                     100,000 Berliners perished. Soviet
                                                                  Bear of the House of Anhalt. The  Prussia had become a major  forces brutalized the city’s civil‐
                                                                  earliest documentation of a settle‐  power by the 19th century; Berlin  ians.
      The views of columnists and letter writers do not necessarily reflect  ment is mention of Spandau (now  was incorporated into Brandenburg  According to Allied agree‐
      the views of the German Citizen. Letters to the editor are welcome at  one of Berlin’s boroughs) in the  in 1815. The city grew prosperous  ment, Berlin was to be adminis‐ or by mail:                       1100s. The official founding date  as industrialization ramped up. In  tered by each of the four major al‐
       The German Citizen, 3620 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga, NY 14215.  of the city is 1237, which quickly  1871 Berlin became the capital of  lied powers, just as Allied-occupied
                                                                  developed trade relationships  newly unified Germany (the Sec‐  Germany was. Berlin was to have
                                                                  across northern Europe from    ond Reich). In 1881 Berlin became  Soviet, British, French, and Ameri‐
                                                                  Bruges in Flanders to Novgorod in  a district separate from Branden‐  can zones. These arrangements
                                                                  Russia.                        burg. By the 20th century, Berlin  were also in place for Austria and
                                                                     Meanwhile, Brandenburg was
                 The German Citizen                               ruled in succession by members of  had become one of the largest and  Vienna. But Allied cooperation
                                                                                                 most vibrant cities in Europe, with
                                                                                                                               crumbled almost immediately after
                Published by Buffalo Standard Printing            the House of Luxemburg and by  world-class architecture, parks and  the war as disagreements between
                          3620 Harlem Rd.                         the House of Wittelsbach. The  cultural life.                the western Allies and the Soviets
                                                                  lion’s share of the history of the re‐
                                                                                                    Palaces and monumental ar‐
                      Cheektowaga, NY 14215                       gion was dominated, however, by  chitecture abounded. The Reich‐  multiplied. The Cold War had be‐
                           716-831-8013                           the House of Hohenzollern-     stag Building had become the leg‐  One result was that no peace
                               Sigmaringen, whose origins were  islative center of Germany. Wil‐  treaty ever resulted for Germany,
                                                                  well to the south and west in  helm II’s great Berlin Cathedral at‐  as eventually happened for Japan
                         Editor - Roger Puchalski                 Swabia. They gained control of the  tempted to be a Protestant rival to  and the Pacific in 1951. The espe‐
                     Consulting Editor - Martin Ederer            region in 1411. By the mid-1600s  St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In the  cially sticky issue was the econom‐
                       For Advertising Sales call:                in addition to more western hold‐  city center, Museum Island became  ics. Was Germany to be a free-
                   Michelle Kisluk or Steve Kroczynski            ings, the House of Hohenzollern  home to world-class museum col‐  market economy or a top-down So‐
                                                                  had gained the Duchy of Prussia  lections.                   viet communist economy? Most
                                                                  and ruled a disjointed collection of  After World War I Berlin was  dicey of all was who would control
           January - February               March - April         territories.                   reorganized. Numerous surround‐  the currency and how. That struck
            May - June                      July - August            The Thirty Years War had dev‐  ing towns were incorporated into  at the heart of what sort of econ‐
            September - October    November - December            astated much of Central Europe,  the greater city. The city also be‐  omy postwar Germany was to
                                                                  Brandenburg and Prussia included.  came one of the major hubs of  have, and fueled the disagreements
                                                                  Berlin lost 33% of its buildings and  Weimar-era culture, technology  between the western allies and the
                                                                  half its population. At this time,  and modern art and architecture.  Soviets. As cooperation collapsed,
                                                                  the Holy Roman Empire was a col‐  By this time Berlin was also home  the western Allies and the Soviets
                                                                  lection of some 300 small monar‐  to a large and highly educated Jew‐  each made their own arrangements
                                                                  chies, duchies and principalities  ish community.            for reconstructing Germany. That
                                                                  cobbled together in a haphazard   After Hitler came to power in  might have been satisfactory for
                                                                  way. For all of them The Thirty  1933, Berlin became the center for
                                                                  Years War was a hard lesson in                                           Continued on page 3
                                                                  what powerful national monarchies
                                                                  like France, Spain, Denmark and
                                                                  Sweden were capable of.
                                                                     Rulers who hoped to compete
                                                                  in this new political world at‐
                                                                  tempted to consolidate their hold
                                                                  on their territories, centralizing
                                                                  their power, raising taxes, and es‐
                                                                  tablishing national bureaucracies.
                                                                  The two most successful Central
                                                                  European powers in doing so were
                                                                  Austria and Brandenburg-Prussia.
                                                                     From that point forward, the
                                                                  story of Berlin was the story of the
                                                                  growth of the House of Hohen‐
                                                                  zollern, first as Electors and later as
                                                                  Kings of Brandenburg-Prussia.
                                                                  Berlin became the new kingdom’s
                                                                  capital. Officially Lutheran, Bran‐
                                                                  denburg-Prussia promoted immi‐
                                                                  gration and religious toleration, al‐
                                                                  though some religious minorities
                                                                  still disagreed on how tolerant the  US Army tanks face off against Soviet armor at Checkpoint Charlie,
                                                                  kingdom was. When France tight‐  Berlin, October 1961. Source
                                                                  ened up restrictions on the Protes‐  standoff-in-berlin-october-1961/  U.S. Army photo.  Photo Credit:
                                                                  tant Huguenots after 1585, Berlin
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