Earlier we entered Neue Wache, on Unter den Linden boulevard in the Mitte district of central Berlin. This monument has a lot of history, and has been adjusted, rededicated and rebuilt a fair few times, according to the information plaque outside. We had no real idea when first stepping into the memorial what the building was, and this probably added to our initial impression. One moment we were giggling and messing about on a beautiful sunny boulevard, noisy with people and street vendors selling currywurst (totally delicious), then as we entered, we were genuinely hit by the power of the monument. I was immediately taken back by the gravity and atmosphere within, out of the sunlight the temperature instantly dropped. This reinforced the atmsopherical quality which was also produced by the emptiness and scale of the room, every small movement produced an echo reverberating around, making each step seem signficant.
In the centre of the room was the statue “Mother With Her Dead Son”, and while this is a striking image, it was the circular hole in the ceiling above which struck me most.
I was reminded instantly of a scene in Haruki Murukami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, where a character spends three days in an empty well in the Mongolian Steppes, after being left there to die. Once a day the sun peaks above and floods the shaft with light, creating a beautiful and transcendental moment for the character, despite the predicament he is in . This statue sat directly below the shaft, but whilst being open to the elements, remained out of the orb of sunlight during our visit, being fixed on the back wall. I can only imagine that at the right time of year, with the Sun at its’ peak, a similar effect could be produced.
Even so there was a clear but unwordable message made by the room and the statue, it’s simplicity of design adding to the weight of the subject. I was foolishly perhaps determined to get a picture from the view of the statue looking upwards directly up towards the circular window into the sky, something which without realising caused me to accidentally stand on part of the monument. This warranted a stern reproach from security, I played the part of the clueless foreigner, though not before I had snapped my picture.
This monument, free to enter, is definitley worth a visit if you’re in Berlin, and along with the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”, is one of the most powerful and resonant places to visit on a cultural tour of the city. 

Published by James Vitaly Harding