Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Three Bears...

Riding around Berlin, prior to taking off for a quick re-visit to Munich and the France vs Portugal Semi-Final, we took the opportunity to visit some of the exhibits set up in the German capital. On the Bebelplatz, Berlin had artists from countries around the world decorate Fiberglas bears with national flavor. This square, opposite Humbolt University, houses the memorial to the acts of May 10, 1933, where the Nazis, upon coming into power, burned thousands of books.

Ironically, a square originally dedicated to religious expression and the arts, it became the scene for intellectual intolerance and the destruction of the vehicles of ideas.

Indeed, books were born in Germany. During the World Cup, Germany decided to celebrate its contribution to the world with examples of ideas, invention and innovation. The Gutenberg printing press gave the technology to mass produce them. How poignant that this historic book burning was reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. There is a plaque, as a memorial in the center of the square, now surrounded by a world of painted bears, which reads... "They that start by burning books will end by burning men," words by Heinrich Heine written in 1821. How well those words foretold the future of book burners of the 1930s.

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