Archive, From the Archive, Germany

From the Archive: Partition by Continent

Bruce Riedel‘s recent recollections of Alex von Tunzelmann‘s book Indian Summer reminded me of a famous photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson of Lord and Lady Mountbatten and Nehru. Looking at Cartier-Bresson’s image with my papa, he said it made Nehru look like a buffoon. Von Tunzelmann’s scholarship suggests a different theory, namely that it is Lord Mountbatten who was cuckolded. And all this from the human atrocity of Partition, talk about a torrid sideshow.

The destruction of the 1940s ended with walls and partitions for half a century or longer, most concretely in Europe, the subcontinent, and the Koreas. On a system’s level the partitioning of ideologies occurred on a global scale, dividing the world accordingly between Soviet and American principles. After Germany’s official reunification in early 1990, new discussions and monuments began to appear in the newly reunified city of Berlin. The government of West Berlin moved from Bonn, the government of East Berlin moved from East Berlin to the Reichstag, one of the most historically fascinating architectural treasures in continental Europe. Then newer discussions began yet: how many monuments to the crimes of the state? Where will they be placed? Who should the streets be renamed after? And critically for this archival image from 2007 of the Holocaust memorial on Hannah Arendt Strasse: is it appropriate to mourn one’s victims?

Partition, albeit not on the subcontinent, was the reason I was in Germany to report and research an article, “Germany’s History Problem” for e-politik.de, about Erika Steinbach and her efforts on behalf of Germany’s Federation of the Expelled, a quasi-German nationalist organization with a great deal of controvery attached to its postwar history, to build a Center Against Expulsions in Berlin.