Re unifications, 2001
This video pairs a sculpture from the Olympic Stadium or Olympiastadion, which was built in Berlin for the 1936 games by the Nazi regime, with the largest Jewish cemetery in the city. I visited them on the same day in 1998. The stadium was built with ancient Rome as its model, a tool for German propaganda, a place to showcase the superiority of the aryan race. It is said that when Jesse Owens, an African American runner, won his first race, Hitler left the stadium. The stadium is still in use for sports and music events. It is located in what was once West Berlin. The Jewish Cemetery at Weißensee is not only the largest Jewish Cemetery in Berlin, it is the largest in Europe. During the war, the Nazis did not destroy Weißensee in order to prove to foreigners that they were not desecrating Jewish cemeteries. The cemetery is located in what was once East Berlin. The Soviets did not desecrate the cemetery either, but it was left largely untended for over forty years, as the community members that would have cared for it were either dead or had emigrated long before, so it was completely overgrown when the Berlin wall fell in 1989. It is massive and surrounded by a 10 -12 foot tall wrought iron fence, but it is open to visitors during the day. Unable to read German, I waltzed past all the signs indicating when those gates would be locked. I was so taken with this site of the remains of German Jewish culture that I hadn’t even thought about the fact that the cemetery might close before nightfall and I managed to find myself locked into this magical haunting place, where Jews were rumored to have hidden in its august monuments during the war. I vaguely toyed with the idea of trying that out myself, just for the evening. Eventually, with the help of an assistant and the encouragement and laughter of a small crowd of onlookers, I managed with great difficulty, in bare feet, to scale the fence and land on the outside unharmed.