Bebelplatz, Berlin. 3.14pm, Thursday 3 October 2013
I’ve had a bit too much of fires and London skylines this week. This apparent hole in the ground is to be found in Berlin at the site where the German Student Union, in May 1933, burned over 25,000 books deemed up be “un-Germanic” in character. Beneath the glass panel you can just identify a library of empty shelves. Nearby is a commemorative plaque inscribed with a quote from Heinrich Heine in 1820:
That was but a prelude;
where they burn books,
they will ultimately burn people as well.
Bebelplatz today is an oasis of cultural calm on the edges of the museum quarter of the city, but this memorial by Micha Ullman reminds us that surface impressions can be deceptive. In Berlin, the past is still never very far below the surface.