Sowjetisches Ehrenmal — by Andrew Jarboe ’05
If history is written by the winners, how does a city once divided in two remember its common past?
I visited the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal (Soviet Memorial), the memorial in Treptower Park to Soviet soldiers who died fighting Germany during World War II. Built shortly after the war, it was a reminder to Berliners of both the sacrifices made by the Red Army and the crimes of National Socialism.
What is remarkable, though not necessarily surprising, is that depending on what side of the Berlin Wall a Berliner grew up on, the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal holds a different meaning.
West Berliners hardly think of the site. I spent the semester living with a family in West Berlin. When I asked my host what she thought of the memorial, she brushed it aside. “That’s an Easterner memorial. I’ve never even been there.”
For many former East Berliners, the memorial serves as a reminder of life under the German Democratic Republic, the regime of East Germany. They recall how the government used the site for political rallies. Interestingly, nobody I spoke to said that the memorial made them think about World War II; it would seem that the original purpose of the memorial has been lost.