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Berlin: The Story of a City

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Barney White-Spunner

Saturday 8th October 12:40 - 13:40 | Performance Marquee

There is a particular frisson about Berlin, a combination of excitement, anticipation, nervousness and the unexpected. Through all its life it has been a city of tensions. Its position, on the frontier of Europe, on the ‘Mark’ where Christianity met paganism, where the Huns met the Slavs, where Europe met Russia and where fertile land met the sands, swamp and forests of Pomerania and Prussia, gave Berlin a geographical tension. It was also a long city of religious tension, between a largely Lutheran people and a Calvinist government. In the nineteenth-century political tension became acute between a city that was increasingly democratic, home to Marx and Hegel, and one of the most autocratic regimes in Europe. Artistic tension between the free thinking and liberal movements started to find themselves in direct contention with the formal, some would say stultifying, official culture. Then came the terrible confrontation between the Nazis and the free world, followed by division in the Cold War and the terror of the Wall.

Berlin is unique. Law abiding and yet witness to five revolutions; ground-breaking cultural experiment and industrial metropolis; capital city but with a population who took social and artistic liberation to extremes, it gave rise to the great movements that changed Europe – the Reformation, Marxism, Fascism and it now offers an example of how the west can accommodate the many people from other continents who want to make Europe their home.


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