Another entry in my travelogue; hope you will find this one interesting. On Wednesday, my mom and I went to a concert by the Dutch artist Herman van Veen. Mom has been a fan for decades and I quite like a lot of his stuff. He certainly is an amazing singer and songwriter. The concert took place in one of East Berlin’s synagogues. I did not take my camera, so no original photos, sorry; but I found this website about the Synagogue. Shame that the pictures are all so small. It is quite an amazing building.
In case you read the website’s text, I would like to add a personal note.
By the time I came about in the early 70s, official policy in the GDR (East Germany) had changed considerably from that of its very early days. For lack of a better description, Stalin had been turned away from and was as a rule not talked about; kind of like the black sheep in a family. Overt Stalinism was not condoned anymore. Kids in my generation were raised in the spirit of antifascism and antiracism. There was no anti-Semitism in my upbringing, not in my private life nor publically. The Holocaust was portrayed to us (e.g., in school) as the biggest crime against humanity in recent history, one that needed to be remembered in order for it to never happen again. There were memorials to it on the grounds of every school I went to, and every school class would go on field trips to concentration camp sites at least once or twice over the years. I do not mean to downplay the fact that a lot of crap went on in the country I grew up in, but the persecution of Jews was not something that existed in my experience. If anything, all religious institutions suffered from the popular spread of atheism during East German times. This, of course, was consistent with public policy in the GDR and often aggressively so, but was something that obviously stuck with the population, as is demonstrated in the persistently large difference in the statistics on religiosity among East and West Germans today.
Another note of interest is the sad fact that all visitors to the concert had to pass through metal detectors—devices not usually seen in Germany outside airports and other high-security facilities. And, of course, there was the police guard outside the building, which, mom tells me, is a permanent fixture outside all synagogues in Germany these days; a sign of
the growing anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism in Germany and the resulting need to protect Jewish facilities on a day-to-day basis.
On this note (and I want to apologise for the length of this post; I really set out at the start to only report on Herman van Veen’s gig, I swear!), since I arrived the following has been a prevalent item in the news: The police chief of the Bavarian town of Passau was attacked and almost killed at his home by a neo-Nazi. A basic theme in the news reporting on the incident has been that neo-Nazism in Germany has “taken on a new quality”. A leftist satirist on TV the other day commented along the lines of asking whether this was to mean that the numerous attacks and even murders of foreigners, or Germans of non-White background, by Nazis over the past years were therefore considered to be of lesser significance...
Back to Herman van Veen. This website has the booklet for the programme he presented. It includes a mini-biography in English and English translations of some of the poems he transformed into songs.
The theme of the evening were the poems written by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, a young Jewish woman who died in a labour camp in 1942. It was a very impressive evening.
Hope you are all well!
P.S.: Still no snow. :(