Detail of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin © Slaunger | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysMedia & PublicsSex & Gender

Memories of Identities, Identities of Memory

How do memorials shape who we think we are? And how do we “do” identities when we interact with memorials? As Salon.com and others noted, gay men have been using the signature concrete slabs of the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe as backdrops to their profile pictures on grindr, a geo-social app that lets those have have logged on find each other that is popular with gay men. In Salon’s account, the combination of the memorial and the anticipation of erotic pleasure is “odd” and “peculiar.” The Memorial appears as a “prop” for self-presentation. The trend is portrayed as equivalent to the EasyJet airline’s 2009 fashion shoot for an in-flight magazine at the memorial. …

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Wilhelm Pieck Allee in central Magdeburg, Germany, 1962. © Biscan | German Federal Archives
Essays

Making Sense of Place

Naming streets and stations in Berlin and beyond

When I was in primary school, there were two street names in my hometown that I always got wrong. My teacher looked at me with disbelief and worry when I called the street next to the school Wolgaster Straße.

My geography skills improved dramatically after 1989, when the street names finally caught up with me. I grew up in the German Democratic Republic; call it DDR, GDR, or East Germany. The street names my teachers insisted on were Wilhelm Pieck Allee (Allee means promenade) and Otto Grotewohl Allee, named after the first President and Prime Minister of my dear republic. At home, I had learned to refer to these streets as Wolgaster Straße (Straße means street) and Anklamer Straße. Wolgast and Anklam are nearby cities. If you go to Wolgast, you leave the city via Wolgaster Straße. These street names are neat mnemonic devices; they point to nearby places. My pre-1989 teacher was not worried about my lack of knowledge. …

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