In a plot once bordered by the wall a block from the Reichstag, to which the Bundestag moved from Bonn in , sits the Holocaust memorial, an undulating 5-acre sea of tombstone-like concrete slabs. There is a nagging tension in the reunified city, between its oddball past and its grown up, worldly present. For decades West Berlin was an eccentric place, cut off by the wall and far away from mainland West Germany.
Plenty left it for cities there, like Hamburg and Munich. To slow the flow, the authorities exempted its young men from national service, which helped attract those seeking alternative lifestyles to districts like Kreuzberg. The fall of the wall saw another influx, as artists swept into former eastern districts to benefit from the cheap accommodation. Some fret that the city still has some growing up to do. They gripe about its administrative dysfunctions, its sometimes anarchic streets illegal nighttime car races are the latest scare and infrastructural embarrassments like the parodically problem-plagued new airport, now scheduled to open a decade late in But more Berliners have a different worry: that its reinvention as a modern European political and start-up hub is driving out the working-class Berliners and poor bohemians who make the city the place it is.
It all boils down to one basic question: can the unified Berlin be a misfit, free-thinking historical curiosity and a modern, globalised power centre at the same time? It is awkward to remember, especially on a happy anniversary like this, but the wall was not just an atrocity, though it was that.
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It was also a stabiliser. This subordinated the Prussian heartland to the Soviet bear and left behind a western, largely demilitarised, geographically marginal Germany comparable in size to Britain, France and Italy and capable of being bound into European institutions. But later the wall fell, a reunited Germany was once more at the heart of Europe and the imbalance returned. Its re-emergence may well define Germany's next phase and is already evident in several places.
One is the growing east-west divide in the EU.
Or consider the geopolitical picture, where Germany is big enough to make moves unsettling to its neighbours, like backing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, but too timid to make proportional commitments to common security. The management of these tensions probably means a redoubled alliance with France where things look promising and reconciliation with Poland where they do not.
Now comes the post-post-wall period.
Berlin Wall - Wikipedia
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