What would you do if you found out your WG had a Nazi past? That there were untold stories of persecution and oppression right where you’re eating breakfast? Started last year, local initiative Denk Mal am Ort aims to honour the city’s Holocaust victims in their own former homes, by inviting the current residents to open up their doors to the public. Anyone can contribute – individuals, housing collectives, associations – in whatever creative way they would like; call it Vergangenheitsbewältigung, Berlin-style.
The organisers, mother-daughter team Jani Pietsch and Marie Rolshoven, started the initiative last year, inspired by the Netherland’s Open Jewish Homes project. From May 6-7, 24 free-of-charge events at private flats, galleries, bookstores and memorial sites (most located around Schöneberg and Wilmersdorf) will commemorate 107 individuals, not only Jews but also social democrats, communists, homosexuals and others. There’ll be film screenings, readings, workshops, art exhibitions, silent remembrances and a culminating hymn at Pietsch’s art studio, as well as a couple of field trips: filmmaker Christiane Carstens will take participants on a quest to Reiswerder Island near Tegel, sharing her research on four Berliners deported from there in August 1944, while Pietsch and her daughter present a small exhibition on Pietsch’s still-living godfather, Dimitri R. Stein, at Berlin’s Technical University, where he was denied his doctorate due to his Jewish heritage.
Think your building might have its own stories? Denise Citroen, initiator of Open Jewish Homes, will be on hand over the weekend to lead a workshop on conducting research interviews with elderly citizens, and Pietsch will happily help you out with research in time to get involved next year.