Before I tell you about the strange night I danced to “Hava Nagila” in a bar in Berlin, I have to admit that I think about this night often, and I think about it on two different occasions.
Traveling around Europe in the midst of all this, conducting dissertation research on the Czech interwar avant-garde and its relationship to other major artistic centers of that period, I could not but think about renewed border controls in the EU territory within the context of, and in comparison to, travel in the period between the two World Wars. At that time, Europeans (as well as travelers from further afield) enjoyed a newly open, post-war terrain. The physical movement of bodies, facilitated also by new and faster modes of travel, helped to open up an unprecedented level of exchange between artists and intellectuals of diverse backgrounds and languages. In that brief window of freedom of movement between the two World Wars, Paris was a hub of such traffic, and many visitors came from Prague.
The year 2015 marks a half-century of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. It is a complicated relationship, to say the least. On the one hand, ties between these two countries are incredibly strong; as a recent article in Ha’aretz details, Germany has made key contributions to Israel’s economy, security, and diplomacy nearly since the founding of the Israeli state in 1948. And present day relations have little of the hand-wringing and public back-and-forth that marks, say, Israeli comments about Jewish life in France, or the regular Israel-bashing that is a feature of discourse in many European countries. On the other hand, it’s Israel and Germany. There will always be a lot to say.
The Hamburger Bahnhof is not a train station now, and never was in Hamburg. It’s a museum of contemporary art in Berlin. It’s also a good metaphor—in name and in content—for this city where nothing is quite as advertised. Though a very fine layer of general German Ordnung covers everything here, it gives way easily to a jumble of rules without regulation, a mass of juxtaposed and unlikely objects of which I am also, and only, one.
* Jeremy Allan Hawkins *
At the turn of the twentieth century, the increasingly poor living conditions in central Strasbourg were the subject of study by municipal housing associations. Inspectors discovered buildings in advanced stages of dilapidation, often with large groups of people living in small single rooms with chronic humidity problems. Many residents lived in housing with no windows or direct light of any kind. Outside, the streets were narrow and dirty, spotted with dung heaps and all kinds of garbage. At the time, journalists and surveyors were openly referring to the old city center as resembling a cesspit or an open sewer. The city leaders decided a radical action would need to be taken to address the problem.