Ernst Thälmann Park Was a Gas Plant

Ernst Thälmann Park in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood is located on what used to be an enormous gas production and storage facility. Built in 1872, the facility was expanded until the second world war, when it gradually fell into disrepair. It was almost entirely demolished in 1982 to make way for the Memorial, new housing blocks, as well as a culture forum. Traces of the old gas facility, though, remain.

House 3: A Soviet Torture Chamber in Berlin

In 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Berlin, Soviet occupation forces settled into House 3 in an abandoned hospital complex in Prenzlauer Berg. They used the building not only as an administrative center, but as a secret detention and torture facility. Prisoners unlucky enough to find themselves in the basement of House 3 often had a long, painful experience before they were finally released - if they were ever released at all.

The Long Shadow of Aryanization

In 1933, Hermann Tietz & Co., one of the largest department store firms in Germany, was forcibly expropriated from its Jewish owners as part of the Nazi policy of Aryanization. It was renamed Hertie, and remained one of Germany's largest retailers until it was purchased in 1994. The heirs of Georg Karg, who took over the firm from its rightful owners in 1933, set up a foundation in his honor shortly after his death.

The CSU is Scared

It made me really sad when I read in the New York Times the other day that American politicians who had advocated bringing Syrian refugees to the United States had been called the “jihadi caucus” by right-wing conservatives. What a stupid, fearful, counter-productive thing to say, I thought. But American politics is prone to this kind of hyperbole and idiocy.

The Government's Refugee Plan

The German Government has agreed on a set of measures that they will undertake to address the huge number of refugees arriving in the country. The Federal Government will spend at least 6 billion euros over the next year to register, feed, house, and process asylum applications.


Beyond the funds, the government also calls on the EU to develop a comprehensive and unified plan to process asylum seekers, as well as an international alliance to fight the sources of the current refugee crisis, e.g. the civil war in Syria and continued instability elsewhere.

Berlin's Medieval City Wall

Berlin's Medieval Wall was constructed around 1250, and was only around 6 feet high. It was built because the relatively new city (the first permanent settlement began sometime in the late 1100s) needed a way to defend itself. There aren't any hills in the area on which to build a fortress, so the best that the people at the time could do was throw together whatever stones and bricks they could find.

Freedom of the Press Under Attack?

An investigation by German authorities of bloggers who are suspected of publishing classified information has caused yet another mini-crisis within the governing coalition. The Justice Minister, Heiko Maas (from the SPD Party), has fired the Federal General Counsel responsible for the investigation.