Utilizing German artist Gunter Demnig’s “Stolpersteine” public art project as a departing point, I have photographed the facades and entryways of 83 buidings in the neighborhood of Moabit in Berlin in which former Holocaust victims resided -or worked- prior to being deported towards Nazi concentration camps.
Some buildings, rebuilt after World War II in Brutalist and Postmodernist fashion, disembody the causal experience of war, by warping chronological time with architectural history. This presence of absence is most evident at the former site of the largest synagogue in Berlin at 38 Levetzowstraße, now turned into a childrens playground-cum-memorial.
The etymology of Moabit can be traced back to the Hueguenots in the time of King Frederick William I of Prussia. Fleeing religious persecution from the French King Louis XIV following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685; these refugees are said to have named their new residence in reference to the biblical description of the Israelites in the country of Moab, where they stayed before being allowed to enter into Canaan. It is said, that the word refugee (in a modern context) was first used in this setting.
The contrasting nature of these two historical episodes from the Reformation era and the 20th Century reveal the frought relationship between persecution and tolerance in Berlin.