Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof

Once in a while Red Baron visits cemeteries. Following my encounter with Brecht one evening, the next day I wanted to see his tomb at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof. The Berlin district Dorotheenstadt dates back to Prussia's Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm who in 1670 gave real estate to his second wife Sophie Dorothea of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. The plot was located between the city wall and Großer Tiergarten, i.e., the princely hunting ground. With Berlin growing a new residential district was soon laid out in the area that was named after Princess Sophia Dorothea.

In the following I will present the burying sites of famous people at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof who rendered services to Prussia and its capital, Berlin. Their biographies are available on Wikipedia so I will just add some personal observations and remarks. Let us start with Bertolt Brecht.


Eugen Bertolt Friedrich Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956) was a poet, playwright, and theater director of the Berliner Ensemble. This Ensemble was jointly run by Bertolt and his wife Helene at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm where Red Baron recently saw Schiller's Die Räuber. I adore Brecht's development of the German language. When he was once asked: What book is most important for you? Brecht, a lifelong atheist, answered: Don't laugh: It's Luther's Bibel. He admired Luther for his powerful German style.

Here is Martin Luther at Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof pointing to "his" book.
At times Brecht was a communist and as such suffered from the political takeover of the Nazis. When the Reichstag building burned on the evening of February 27, 1933, he knew that the battle for a democratic Germany was lost and impressively wrote:

Zu Berlin im Jahre neunzehnhundertdreiunddreißig stand
Dann an einem Montagabend des letzten Reichstags Haus in Brand
.
(At Berlin in the year nineteen hundred thirty-three
Then on a Monday evening the building of the last Reichstag was on fire).

Bertolt's and Helene's tombstones are of a touching simplicity.



Nearby you will find Heinrich Mann's (27 March 1871 – 11 March 1950) stele. He was a German novelist and his life was always overshadowed by his younger brother Thomas. Whereas most people only associate Heinrich with the movie Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) starring Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola I admire Mann for his social-critical novel Der Untertan describing the servility of German society in the Second Reich. Taken from Mann's novel Professor Unrat Carl Zuckmayer wrote the script of The Blue Angel with Josef von Sternberg being the movie director.


Opposite those authors are the tombstones of two famous German philosophers.


Johann Gottlieb Fichte (May 19, 1762 – January 27, 1814) was a founding figure of German idealism that developed from the philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant. From Wikipedia I learned that Fichte and not Hegel was the originator of thesis–antithesis–synthesis as a philosophical tool.

Fichte was one of the fathers of German nationalism and known for his Reden an die Deutsche Nation (Speeches to the German Nation) he delivered under French occupation in Berlin in 1808: Germans should be Germans and have character. He also said that making Jews free German citizens would hurt the German nation a remark that induced Freiburg's street renaming commission to place Fichte's name in their category B of "charged" names, i.e, the original street sign should be supplemented with an explanatory text.



Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) became the philosopher of German idealism. He studied theology in Tübingen where as a freshman he planted a freedom tree together with Hölderlin and Schelling. The three danced around singing revolutionary songs.

When Hegel saw Napoleon on the evening before the French troops crushed the Prussian army in the Battle of Jena and Auerstädt he enthused: I saw the Emperor – this world-spirit – riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it ... this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire.

In 1818, Hegel accepted Johann Gottlieb Fichte's orphaned chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin. In his lectures Hegel called the French Revolution a glorious sunrise and continued: Ein Enthusiasmus des Geistes hat die Welt durchschauert, als sei es zur wirklichen Versöhnung des Göttlichen mit der Welt erst jetzt gekommen (Enthusiasm of the spirit has sent a shiver through the world. It seems that only now the divine is reconciled with the world).



Two of Prussian's famous sculptors are buried at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof. Christian Daniel Rauch (2 January 1777 – 3 December 1857) was one of them. Rauch created the Prussian National Monument for the Liberation Wars on Berlin's Kreuzberg and the statue of Frederick the Great on horseback still riding Unter den Linden. My late son took a memorable photo.





Johann Gottfried Schadow (20 May 1764 – 27 January 1850) was in direct competition with Rauch. Schadow's portrait statues include Crown-Princess Louise, the German Jeanne d'Arc, and her sister Frederica. The latter statue is on display at the Friedrichswerder Church in Berlin where I took one of my first digital photos in 2001. The quality is not too bad.




One of Berlin's famous citizens is buried here. Johann Friedrich August Borsig (23 June 1804 – 6 July 1854) was the founder of the famous Borsig-Werke (factory). In Wikipedia we read: Despite tremendous costs, the first locomotive, bearing factory number 1 and the name BORSIG, was finished in 1840. This locomotive had an interior frame, a two-axle front pivoted bogie and an extra dead axle behind the only drive axle. On 21 July 1840, Borsig let it compete against a Stephenson-built locomotive on the Berlin-Jüterbog railroad. The Borsig locomotive won by 10 minutes, proving that in spite of the lack of experience, Germans could build locomotives that were at least as good as the British models, and so the import of locomotives and engineers was no longer necessary. By the way the same happened with British cars in the second half of the 20th century.

Not all that glitters is gold. My father, a native Berliner, retained a slogan from his father highlighting the social grievances of industrial workers in the Second Reich: Wer nie bei Siemens-Schuckert war, bei AEG und Borsig, der kennt des Lebens Elend nicht, der hat es erst noch vor sich (A man who has never worked at Siemens-Schuckert, at AEG and at Borsig does not know the misery of life, for it is still ahead of him).



After the war a memorial stone was dedicated to opponents of the Nazi regime murdered by Gestapo henchmen when the war had already been lost. The inscription reads: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5,10). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, was one of them. He was a founding member of the so-called Confessing Church that stayed in strong opposition to the gleichgeschaltete Reichskirche (Lutherans forced into line with the Nazi regime).

Hans von Dohnanyi and Justus Delbrück belonged to a resistance circle created by Karl Ludwig Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg who worked at the Foreign Ministry of the Third Reich. His nephew Karl-Theodor von und zu Guttenberg with his attractive wife once was the young hopeful of the Christian Democrats until he had to leave his post of Minister of Defense in Chancellor Merkel's government because of his doctor's degree obtained by fraud.




Until November 1989 the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof belonged to East Berlin. One of the first "West Germans" buried there was Johannes Rau (16 January 1931 – 27 January 2006) who was a professed Lutheran and member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). His party colleagues called him Bruder Johannes (Friar John).

Subsequently we read on his tomb: He also was with Jesus (Matthew 26:69), a statement that Social Democrat Johannes never denied, contrary to Simon Peter. Rau initially served as Ministerpräsident (governor) of North Rhine-Westphalia and was extremely popular due to his attitude: reconcile and not divide. In 1999 he was elected Germany's Federal President. Rau married in 1982 and became father for the first time at the age of 54. When he died in 2006 his youngest daughter was only twenty.




Egon Karl-Heinz Bahr (18 March 1922 – 19 August 2015) was a German SPD politician. He was a journalist and became the spiritus rector of the Ostpolitik promoted by German Chancellor Willy Brandt, for whom he served as Secretary of the Chancellor's Office from 1969 until 1972.

In 1999 I met Egon Bahr personally when, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of German unification, he gave a talk at the German School in Geneva. While he was outlining the initial processes that led to unification I hung on Bahr's every word for he not only was a unique witness of history lived through but a master of the German language too. He was speaking bühnenreif (ready for the stage) without manuscript or interjections (you know what I mean). He started a phrase and finished it in beauty, never turning around or correcting himself. The only other person I have met who was blessed with such a talent was a Swiss politician, Kurt Furgler.

Cemeteries are thrilling history books. This ends my trilogy of the 2016 Berlin blogs.

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