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Berlin

Berlin is the second largest city with regard to population in all of Europe. With over 3.4 million people, Berlin is the capitol city of Germany and also it’s largest. Berlin has held the title of capitol city under various regimes throughout German history. However, after World War II, it was divided into East and West Germany, by the Berlin wall. East Berlin became the capitol of East Germany and West Berlin became the ‘de facto’ capitol of West Germany. It was not until the reunification of Germany in 1990 that the Berlin wall came down and Berlin would become the capitol city again for all of Germany.

After the First World War, Berlin was incorporated with several neighboring cities, and was comprised of several towns, villages and cities that surrounded it. After this time, the population of Berlin grew to around 4 million people.

Prior to the uprising of Nazis and Hitler in Germany, Berlin was awarded the 1936 Summer Olympics. However, by 1936, Hitler had already taken power in Germany and was clear about his anti-Semitism. He was only allowing Aryans to compete on the German Olympic teams. Fearing an international boycott of the games, fueled in large part by the United States, Hitler allowed all of the signs around Germany that read “Jews not welcome here” to be taken down. Some said that Hitler saw the Olympics as an opportunity to showcase his ‘perfect race’ to the world.

However, with the toll of the Second World War, and the bombing of Berlin, the city was basically destroyed and over a hundred thousand civilians died from air raids. After the war ended, Berlin was divided into four sections respective to the ally nation that was responsible for its restoration. The United States, Britain and France allied to make up the Western Berlin occupation zone, and the Eastern Berlin zone was occupied by Russia. Several years later, while maintaining Allied responsibility for Western Berlin, Russia began to block the access routes from West Berlin to East Berlin. The area known formerly as West Berlin (and West Germany) became known as the Federal Republic of Germany and a Democratic Republic (with Russia at the helm) was formed in East Germany. West Berlin, occupied by the allies, would see economic growth and some prosperity during the next 40 years, but Eastern Berlin saw an economic decline. The animosity between the eastern and western forces was exacerbated by the development of two different “states” and ultimately, it resulted in the establishment of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Brandenburg Gate was one of the entry points established in the construction of the wall. Originally built in the late seventeen hundreds, it was modeled after the Propylaea in Athens and now serves as the only standing symbolic reminder of the two parts to the city.

It would not be until almost 30 years later that the wall, due to pressure from Western nations (the United States included), would be knocked down. On November 9, 1989 the wall was officially ‘knocked down’ and ultimately the entire wall was destroyed. On October 3, 1990, Germany was reunified and Berlin once again became the capitol.

Berlin is located in the northeastern portion of Germany and is located just some 43 miles west of Poland. Since it is the capitol city of Germany, Berlin has (since its reunification) become a cultural center of the country, as well as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe. Though Berlin suffered great damage during the Second World War, it is now home to major museums, art exhibits, symphonies, theaters and three airports. Several unrestored buildings still stand in the heart of Berlin, as memorials to World War II. Performance arts are popular in Berlin and it hosts three opera houses and six orchestras.

For the traditional art lover, Berlin has a hot spot known as Museuminsel (or Museum Island). Berlin has over 170 museums and galleries. These art galleries and museum house everything from traditional art to new-age and eclectic bohemian pieces. One of the highlights of Berlin history by way of museums is the Jewish Center, built after the reunification of the city.

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