Tag Archives: Berlin

Merkel unveils Roma Holocaust memorial

GlobalPost, October 24, 2012

BERLIN, Germany — Almost 70 years after the end of World War II, Germany has unveiled a memorial to the up to half-a-million Roma and related Sinti people murdered by the Nazis.

The memorial, a dark, circular pool of water with a triangular plinth in the center — where a fresh flower will be placed every day — stands in the capital’s Tiergarten park near the Reichstag.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck joined politicians and representatives of the Roma and Sinti communities, as well as 100 elderly Holocaust survivors for the unveiling ceremony.

“Every single fate in this genocide is a suffering beyond understanding,” Merkel said. “Every single fate fills me with sorrow and shame.”

However, representatives of the Roma and Sinti — a related people who live mostly in German-speaking Central Europe — say the memorial should also serve as a warning about ongoing discrimination across the continent today. Continue reading


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An Ampel Mann: Alexander Scheer Profile

S Magazine, Issue 13

In the grand tradition of German metamorphosis, actor Alexander Scheer changes constantly, just as his beloved Berlin does. From playing a classical villain to being a rock god, from experimental theatre to international film festivals, from iron curtains to nonstop curtain calls.

The past is a foreign country, so the saying goes, and the past for German actor Alexander Scheer is hardly metaphorical terrain. “I was born in the East and when I was 14 there was a revolution and then suddenly I was in the West.”

The result, he says, was that “everything I had thought, everything I was used to, was suddenly turned upside down. It was wonderful.” Scheer’s story as an actor is thus the story also of his birthplace, Berlin. As a teenager growing up, he relished in the sudden anarchy and chaos that came with the fall of the Wall. Today, as one of the most successful stage actors of his generation, and with a burgeoning international film career, Scheer still lives in a state of perpetual flux, switching between genres and even art forms with a feverishness that masks the ease with which he does it. “Berlin is still constantly changing. You can’t ever say it’s a certain way. It’s just like me.”

Having started out doing underground theatre and modelling in the newly reunified city, Scheer, 35, had his breakout film role in the 1999 comedy Sonnenallee, before he embarked on a ten-year odyssey through Germany’s theatrical landscape, even as he returned repeatedly to his first love, cinema. His first big English-speaking televised role came in 2010, depicting the dangerous right-hand man to the international terrorist Carlos, in the eponymous five-hour thriller. He’s now to star in an experimental theatre production of Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler at Berlin’s legendary Volksbühne, while his latest shoot, slated for release in November, is a children’s fantasy film, in which he plays, of all things, Santa Claus. It’s an endearingly uncool part for Scheer, perhaps the most rock-n-roll of all German actors.

Read the full article here (PDF):

smag13 – alexanderscheer

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Shakespeare finds a summer backdrop in Berlin

The Guardian, August 15, 2012

It is dusk in Görlitzer Park and a brawny King Henry VIII is standing at the top of a giant metal slide, wearing just his crown, a giant medallion and skimpy white leggings.

Down below an audience of about 400 people are laughing at the free spectacle, part of Berlin‘s version of Shakespeare in the Park.

It’s an interesting choice of venue for the Bard. The sprawling, scruffy park has long attracted its own cast of local characters, from punks, drug dealers and students to Turkish families who gather here to grill and picnic.

It is in the heart of the alternative scene, multi-ethnic Kreuzberg, an increasingly trendy district in the throes of gentrification. Soaring rents and a proliferation of bars and hostels catering to tourists have given rise to resentment in some quarters.

So when hordes of Shakespeare enthusiasts appeared in their midst last summer, not everyone in the park laid out the welcome mat.

Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/15/shakespeare-in-the-park-berlin

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Berlin’s ‘bearpit karaoke’ under threat

The Guardian, May 28, 2012

Sebastian has the crowd in the palm of his hand. Belting out a version of Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know?, the enthusiastic Australian gets the 1,500 or so onlookers to join in the chorus before doing an honorary lap around the improvised stage.

He is one of about 50 amateur singers from across the globe who have mustered the nerve to take part in this afternoon’s instalment of a Berlinphenomenon: bearpit karaoke.

For the past four years thousands of visitors and locals have been flocking to the open-air karaoke sessions on Sunday afternoons in the Mauerpark, which stretches along part of the former “death strip” between East and West Berlin. Now a decision by the local council could put the hugely popular mass singing session at risk.

Officials have tripled the prices for the permit needed to hold the karaoke, to €1,500 (£1,205), and have stipulated that the shows can only be held on 12 specific dates during the summer.

That could disappoint many of the 30,000-50,000 people who visit theMauerpark every Sunday. While many are there to check out the sprawling flea market adjacent to the park, the karaoke is undoubtedly also a huge draw.

The singing spectacle came about pretty spontaneously, says Gareth Lennon, the 38-year-old Dubliner who runs the karaoke under the nameJoe Hatchiban.

Back in 2009 he and some friends hit upon the idea of cycling around the city with his new cargo bike, equipped with a speaker, laptop and microphone, and trying to film people doing karaoke.

One afternoon he decided to swing by the stone amphitheatre set deep in the steep grassy slope on one side of the park, and see if people would perform. “Within a month or two we were getting fairly full houses, and it has just gone on from there.”

Read full article on the Guardian website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/28/berlin-bearpit-karaoke-under-threat

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The Focus Group

CNBC Business Magazine, May 2012 Issue (Cover Story)

A Berlin eyewear company dedicated to innovation and tradition has become the darling of the über-cool

At first glance the business occupying four floors of an ex-blacksmith’s in the heart of the former East Berlin could be yet another trendy tech start-up. As well as the obligatory foosball game, there are benches and a long table for communal lunches, and hundreds of Polaroids of its hipster employees line the walls in a blur of piercings, tattoos and beanies.

Yet on closer inspection something more interesting is going on inside. Grouped around work surfaces, men and women are carefully assembling thousands of pairs of glasses by hand.

This is the red-brick nerve centre of the über-fashionable MYKITA eyewear company, established in 2003 and a fixture on catwalks worldwide, not to mention a favourite of Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Founded by four young men from the small German city of Oldenburg, last year it had a turnover of €16m and sold more than 160,000 frames – every one produced in the so-called MYKITA Haus. “From the beginning our products were based on cutting-edge technology coupled with traditional hand assembly,” says CEO and creative director Moritz Krueger, who at 32 is the company’s youngest founder.

The original product was the brainchild of Philipp Haffmans and Harald Gottschling, who met while studying industrial design. Working on a project at Berlin University of the Arts, they hit upon the idea of making glasses based on the Japanese art of origami. Rolling the end of the frames into a spiral, and clicking it together with a spiral or coil on the temple, they produced hinges that had no need for soldering or screws. Enamoured with this design, they decided to form a business, bringing Krueger and Haffmans’ architect brother Daniel on board as partners and setting up shop in a former kindergarten known colloquially as ‘kita’ – hence the German-English hybrid name MYKITA. Continue reading

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Painted Into a Corner: Berlin’s Floundering Art Market

CNBC Business Magazine, Nov. 1, 2011

Ute Litzkow is pretty pleased. She has sold three art works so far at Berlin’s annual Kunst Herbst (‘Art Autumn’). The 38-year-old is standing next to one of her pieces, a vibrant multicoloured version of a traditional Japanese print, in one of the countless large booths that are lined up in rows in a cavernous hangar of the former Tempelhof Airport.

The crowd is heaving on the opening night of Preview Berlin, a satellite show dedicated to emerging art that usually occurs alongside the city’s traditional art fair, the Art Forum. However, this year the main event is not taking place and Litzkow says she has heard that several international collectors have not been spotted this year. “Berlin without an art fair,” she says. “It’s crazy.”

The cancellation of the floundering Art Forum, which had been going for 15 years, wasn’t a huge surprise, but it occurred against the background of a sluggish market, closing galleries and a spat between artists and the city government in what has been a turbulent year for Berlin art.

“After years of promises, and of feeling that Berlin is going to be the next big city, it feels now that it’s not going to be any bigger,” says Thomas Eller, an artist who also served as managing director of the Temporäre Kunsthalle, a temporary exhibition space set up on the old site of the Berlin palace in 2008. “That is why there is a certain air of disappointment here.” The way Eller sees it, there is a feeling that the city may be peaking as an art market.

While Berlin has long enjoyed a reputation as a vibrant creative centre attracting artists, both struggling and successful, it has not really been able to translate that into a thriving commercial hub. And there is frustration at the government’s lack of understanding of the needs of the city’s artistic community and at its failure to fund a really strong public infrastructure. Continue reading

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Arrrgh! Pirate party takes Berlin

GlobalPost, Oct. 7, 2011

BERLIN, Germany — They arrived at Berlin’s imposing parliament building, mostly wearing hoodies and sneakers, carrying orange pirate flags, the symbol of their party.

As they tried to enter the city-state’s legislature the day after their historic win, a stern woman at the security desk told them, “nein,” those party symbols are strictly “verboten.”

And so began the first day of the Pirate Party’s newly changed status as legislators, after an unexpected election result that has shaken up the staid world of German politics.

The band of internet-freedom activists shocked themselves and pretty much everyone else when they won close to 9 percent in the Berlin state election on Sept. 18, allowing them to send 15 very unconventional new politicians to the regional parliament. Continue reading

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