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Among My Souvenirs

Stories of the road

Hate Harms the Soul

International group travel takes us to many places and last spring we were on a cruise to Scandinavia. Our first port Warnemunde, Germany, the entryway for our daytrip to Berlin. A two-hour train ride in style and comfort landed us in the city mid-morning.

Berlin – a place I had longed to see since June 26, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy declared "Ich bin ein Berliner". It was a call for the west to stand strong against communism yet, in my young mind, I heard something very different. A call to our common humanity. I was somehow a Berliner and I was somehow connected to their struggle; I was somehow related to their pain. I knew at the tender age of 13, one day I would be there, there in Berlin to finally understand how I was connected to them.

And so with his powerful closing phrase ringing in my ears, I stepped from the train, camera ready to capture those words in a photo, in a memory. But where was it; at the wall, at the Brandenburg gate, I knew it was here, I just had to keep looking.

There is another side to the Berlin story. It is the chapter of the dark history of Nazism, for it is here in Berlin, that the movement gained power, passion and preeminence among the German people. Led by the maniacal dictator, Adolf Hitler, Germany rose and fell, here in Berlin.

From the visit to the Berlin Wall, to the Bebelplatz, we made our journey through mountains of history buried in the city streets, houses and people we passed on our way. Leaving the bus, we walked around the plaza, the massive Opera House, the Humboldt University yet it was the center of the cobblestones that was the attraction. This was the site of the infamous Nazi Book Burning of May 10, 1933.

An ingenious memorial – a plexiglass covering and beneath the plaza surface, rows and rows of empty bookcases symbolizing the destruction. The sense of loss and foreboding was palpable as the words of the Jewish playwright, Heinrich Heine, wrote in 1821, “Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.”

To the west of this site stands the Memorial to the Murdered Jews and almost equidistant to the east is the Berlin Cathedral with its simple but powerful banners: Hate Harms the Soul.

In an instant, I captured what I could not understand at 13. What happens to one, happens to us all – hate harms every soul.