Friday, March 25, 2011

Soviet War Memorial (Treptower Park) - In A Berlin Minute (Week 47)

Judith at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptow

The Soviet World War Two Memorial in Treptower Park (Советский мемориал войны) in Berlin is quite monumental - large in scale and meaning. The "Sowjetisches Ehrenmal in Treptow" was conceived by a collective of Russian artists and commemorates the 80,000 Red Army soldiers that died during the "Battle of Berlin" in May 1945. But this is not only a memorial - it is also the cemetery of 5,000 of those soldiers.


Soviet War Memorial (Treptower Park) - In A Berlin Minute (Week 47) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

Several people had recommended this sight to me. And I had mixed feelings about it from the get-go.  On a beautiful spring-like late afternoon this week I went for the first time with two friends. The entire memorial is vast and impressive and it caused me more mixed feelings then and now as I've put the video and sounds together.

I'm definitely a pacifist. I don't (usually) believe in attacking other countries, I don't believe in war propaganda or glorifying the military or any kind of violence. It breaks my heart to think of all the lives lost, all the trauma experienced and the cities, countries, cultures destroyed in all the stupid wars.

But as we see with Libya right now - there are times when it seems the other countries' duty to step in and stop a regime from hurting its own people or those in surrounding countries. The Soviet troops invaded Germany and Berlin to stop Hitler and World War 2 - just like the Americans did via Normandy and Western Europe - not to mention the French and British with their efforts.

What struck me most about this memorial was actually that the 40 ft tall main statue (a man holding a little girl in one hand and sword in the other) stands on a broken swastika. In all the US imagery, I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Very powerful.

Soviet War Memorial Statue Yevgeny Vuchetich

But there's still something weird about a memorial for "the other country" in your defeated country, isn't there? Then there are the negative stories you hear about how Russian soldiers supposedly treated Germans in Berlin, particularly women. Next come the thoughts that the dispute between the USSR and the USA was at the heart of why Germany was divided by a deadly border and that this memorial was in East Berlin.

The fact that there are 5000 soldiers burried under this memorial is haunting. The images on the large stones are disturbing.

So in the end I tried to reflect my mixed feelings via the audio: the National Hymn of the USSR performed by the 1968 USSR Defense Ministry and the sounds of "Military Battle WW2" from Soundtrack Pro. Now I have confused feelings about that step as well. I'm afraid it may come across as tasteless. But then again there is nothing as tasteless as war and violence itself - yet you have to admire those who are willing to give their lives to protect or free others.

It's complicated.

Judith and Larissa at Sowjetisches Ehrenmal in Treptower Park

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