Impressions of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

by James Glazebrook

Sachsenhausen Neutrale Zone

It’s 4am and I’m wide awake, struggling to process the GetYourGuide Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Walking Tour. I’m”suffering” from two things: a nasty cold I picked up wandering around in sub-zero conditions, and a hazy black cloud of half-formed negative emotions that hangs somewhere in the back of my mind. Both leave me feeling pathetic and weak-willed.

Sachsenhausen red rose burned barracks

I got sick after less than four hours in -10°C, wrapped in three layers of weather-resistant clothing. Some of the 30,000 prisoners who passed through Sachsenhausen work camp endured more bitter cold (as low as -20°C) wearing only one layer of thin cotton, and no shoes. Once they stood outside for a roll call of their identification numbers that lasted 26 hours. Listening to this, I wolfed down a sandwich, feeling particularly worthless. Impossibly brave people had survived unimaginably worse conditions, sustained by only one slice of bread per day.

Sachsenhausen frost

As I tried to make sense of our guide’s detail-soaked narrative, I felt a pale shadow of what Germans must, when they think about this part of their history. Hearing about the sheer number of prisoners, and the methods employed to dehumanise, punish and – later in World War Two – kill them, left me numb. Finding it impossible to put myself in their position, I tried to empathise with the citizens of the small town of Oranienburg, some of whom still lived on the borders of Sachsenhausen. I don’t blame them for doing their best to ignore the rumours of what happened inside, insinuated by the chimney stack smoking with the ashes of the Third Reich’s victims. If I can’t process this, generations later, no wonder they couldn’t at the time.

Sachsenhausen executions

Apologies if you were expecting specifics about the GetYourGuide Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp tour. No amount of words, images or facts and figures – although there are many to be found in the careful reconstruction of the camp – can truly represent the horrors that took place there. Go for the price of an ABC BVG ticket (entrance to the site is free), or book a guided tour, and support the invaluable work of the cash-strapped Memorial. But don’t expect to be able to comprehend what happened there.

Sachsenhausen barracks

Sachsenhausen prisoner uniforms

Sachsenhausen watch tower

Sachsenhausen prison

Sachsenhausen hole in the fence

Sachsenhausen morgue

Sachsenhausen barbed wire

Sachsenhausen prison cell

For more photos and another writer’s impressions of the camp, read this guest post about Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

Music Montag: Hans Sølo & Streichmetall

by James Glazebrook

Hans Sølo & Streichmetall

Truly unique artists are a music writer’s worst nightmare. Going into this, I knew I wouldn’t be able to describe Hans Sølo without referencing things that I either don’t fully understand or know don’t really apply – folk, chamber music, Anthony and the Johnsons, Sigur Rós. That’s why this Bavarian based in Neukölln refers to his sound simply as “chamber pop”. A large part of what makes me love this music that, on paper, I shouldn’t, is the backing of the string quartet (plus drums) Streichmetall. Have a listen to the beautiful “Sleep” below, and catch the  collective at Verlängertes Wohnzimmer this Friday, 1st February.

Preview: CTM Festival

by James Glazebrook

CTM Festival

I’m starting to hate doing these Berlin event roundups – how do you pick highlights from a week-long programme of amazing performances? CTM.13 kicked off with a mini-riot in the Boiler Room last Thursday, courtesy of a breakcore and tech-step set from Alec Empire, and the music arm of the Transmediale digital art festival doesn’t let up until Sunday. Empire’s back in Stattbad Wedding on Saturday, tearing it up with BlackBlackGold and Necro Deathmort, and our other picks of this year’s CTM Festival include: occult obscurists Demdike Stare, Imogen Heap presenting at MusicMakers Hacklab, Kode9 and others talking about the Death of Rave and a performance from the legendary Sunn O))). Go to the CTM website for the full programme, and get yourself a pass to Berlin’s Festival for Adventurous Music and Arts.


Deutsches Currywurst Museum

by James Glazebrook

Currywurst Museum

I can’t believe we’ve never talked about currywurst before! This snack of chopped up sausage covered in curry ketchup is a real taste of Berlin – and, for the record, one we really like. It may not taste much of curry, but then neither do the actual curries here; as a matter of fact, the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten in Berlin is a currywurst from a stand at Wittenbergplatz. Damn, it was scharf! Anyway, we jumped at the chance to visit the Deutsches Currywurst Museum – and we were impressed by how much they’d made out of the humble street food.

Currywurst Museum

The museum’s interactive exhibits tell of the snack’s origins, its spread across Berlin – and the whole world –  before explaining what goes into a typical currywurst and letting you pretend to make your own. We found out that there are over 2,000 vendors in the German capital alone, and that their many variations on the dish include a “taxi plate”, complete with chips, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, gyros and tzatziki (but unfortunately, no info on where to buy it!).

Currywurst Museum

We had a go on the virtual vendor machine and played in the faked-up currywurst van, before learning how the snack was invented. In 1949, a woman called Herta Heuwer, who owned a counter in the British sector of Berlin, started experimenting with the exotic ingredients brought over from the UK. She incorporated curry powder into the recipe that she took to her grave (having burned all written records of it after her husband’s death), and the currywurst was born. Uwe Timm, author of Die Entdeckung der Currywurst, claims the dish was invented in Hamburg, but that’s another story – and one that’s also been made into a feature film and a graphic novel (on display here).

Currywurst Museum

After picking up some more factoids (did you know that “curry” is a bastardisation of the Tamil word “Kari”, meaning “sauce”?), fighting with some giant play pommes, and watching an illuminating short film an American expat shot at Berlin’s currywurst stands, we sat down to our inclusive lunch. From the selection of three common variations, we struggled to pick a favourite between the bratwurst with herbs and the Berliner currywurst with skin (mit darm). Next time, mine’s a taxi plate!

Currywurst Museum

Currywurst Museum

Currywurst Museum

Currywurst Museum

Currywurst Museum

Boiler Room Berlin

by James Glazebrook

Modeselektor at Boiler Room Berlin

The Berlin outpost of the world’s leading underground music show, Boiler Room, has been broadcasting from the unique space of Stattbad Wedding for about 18 months now. During that time, the former swimming pool has hosted some of the best DJs and electronic acts in the world, including Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin, DJ Hell and überlin faves Modeselektor (celebrating above), Objekt, Redshape and Ellen Allien.

Boiler Room Berlin

Boiler Room Berlin is strictly invite-only, and we’ve been lucky enough to get into this Thursday’s CTM festival special. The frankly ridonkulous lineup includes Kangding Ray, dub master Pole and Mr. Digital Hardcore himself, the mighty Alec EmpireIf you can’t physically be there, tune into boilerroom.tv at 8pm (7pm GMT) to catch all the action. In the meantime, I’ve tried to pick some favourites from the archives, in which pretty much every set is a highlight, for your home viewing pleasure:

Music Montag: Savages

by James Glazebrook

Savages by Dave W Clarke

Savages by Dave W Clarke, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence

I know nothing about Savages save that they’re all women, and probably part of some London new/No Wave post-post-punk movement. Here’s their song “Flying to Berlin”, which may or may not have been inspired by the delayed construction work on Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Spikey.

London: The Break Up

by Guest Blogger

Before we started our full-blown love affair with Berlin, we enjoyed a few fleeting holiday romances. And as we fell in love with the city, we slowly fell out of love with our home at the time, London. We’ve heard the same story time and again, though rarely as eloquently put as in this post, from a (relatively) recent refugee from the Big Smoke. Presenting “London: The Break Up”, written by Marie J Burrows, and illustrated by Joe Wray.

Berlin vs London

I used to love London, until I found Berlin…

I used to love London. Hailing from a crappy ‘city’ in the Midlands, as far as I was concerned the streets were paved with gold, not just chicken wrappers. I live there for three years, and every time I was forced to leave it’s smoggy borders my heart yearned to be back, and on arrival after rushing off the train at Euston I would inhale the familiar smell of the tube affectionately; happy to be home.

This was three and a half years ago. The last five months I have spent living in Berlin, moving there after a brief affair a couple of years ago which left me wanting more. I left London with abandon, sad but excited for the future, thinking one day we would be reunited. Now I’m back I know that I was wrong. My relationship with London has soured dramatically, its fast pace now leaving me weary.

Tired of London, tired of life?

They say if you’re tired of London you’re tired of life, and tired of London I am not. I am however tired of its inhabitants, swarming frantically over each other constantly, its public transport, clogging its veins and its mentality, angry and unforgiving.

Since living in Berlin I have learnt to chill out. To not exasperatedly huff and puff my way around the person standing on the left on the escalator, cursing them for perhaps causing me to wait an extra 30 seconds for the next train. I have learnt to walk at a normal pace, not a shin splint inducing million miles per hour, even taking in my surroundings occasionally. I have learnt that it won’t kill me to stop and help people read a map or find somewhere, now I know what it feels like to live in an alien country where I struggle with the language.

Cruel to be kind

Kindness in London is also definitely in shortage. With all that rushing around everyone’s doing it makes it just that bit harder to stop and help someone with their suitcase, to give directions or just to meet that old friend for dinner (well they do live all the way in Angel, that’s the other side of the river!).

After only three days here, working temporarily in central I found myself already slipping into ‘angry Londoner mode’, hastily side stepping tourists/the elderly/children on the pavement lest they hinder my oh so important progress. I also felt that old tiredness start to creep up on me, that overwhelming tiredness which causes you to lie on your bed for five minutes when you get home out of sheer exhaustion. The tiredness created by the feeling that this is London, I should be making the most of it, there are a million and one things that I could be doing this evening! The tiredness from traipsing from one end of London to another, to a destination that is not even that far geographically, but which seems to take half a lifetime by bus.

Pricey ‘Privileges’

All this moaning without even mentioning the cost of living in this mayhem – a travel card for zones 1&2 now setting you back a hefty £30.40 a week! I’m already yearning for the more spacious and efficient transport I left behind (which isn’t hindered by snow either, whole INCHES of it in fact). The cost of living in London is also obviously a far cry from its German capital city counterpart, the idea of 50p litre bottles of beer here simply ludicrous (not only because of the new prices being implemented to prevent binge drinking).

Needless to say, I can’t wait to get back to Berlin. I may not be able to speak German very well, I don’t earn lots of money and health insurance costs the earth but hell, the people are nice, and that’s one up on you, London.