On Wednesday morning, Mary and I toured the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RFERL broadcasts news into over twenty countries who do not have a free press, most of which are either in the Balkans or the Middle East. While this broadcaster's history stretches back to WWII to balance Nazi propaganda, RFERL's mission during the Cold War was to do much the same thing from its base in Munich: counter Soviet propaganda. With the fall of the USSR in 1991, Congress considered closing the book on RFERL's storied history (think $), but Czechoslovakia offered to host the network free of charge.
Tom and Mary at Radio Free Europe
While it was interesting to see the new broadcast center (the hi-tech, hi-security building opened in 2009), our tour guide gave us the sort of information that Mary and I have been looking for this whole trip: a personal story of survival behind the Iron Curtain. While I won't go into details here, suffice it to say that we left the building with a deeper and more personal understanding of the Cold War's harmful effects on its people.
Our afternoon train to Berlin took us through some beautiful countryside vistas, and with our relatively late arrival, we only had time for a quick dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant before retiring for the day.
Our scheduled two days in Berlin allowed us to take a more leisurely tour of Berlin's Holocaust and Cold War sites: Brandenburg Gate,
Tom and Fraulein Minni in front of the Brandenburg Gate
Bebelplatz, two museums, Checkpoint Charlie, and finally the Topography of Terrors.
Mary at the Wall just beyond the Topography of Terrors
Just a few comments: Bebelplatz was the sight of a large book burning rally in 1933; over 20,000 Jewish and "anti-German" books were torched by the Hitler Youth. The Topography of Terrors is a museum that charters the rise of the Nazi Party and documents the atrocities committed by the SS and Gestapo. Seeing this Nazi brutality again is wearing on us, but we think it's important to be witnesses for those who can no longer speak for themselves.
We concluded our day at the Sony Center with dinner at an Australian restaurant. Our waiter happened to be a former army brat who has lived in both the US and Germany. We asked him which language has the better swear words. He replied that German does, but he politely refused to offer any examples when we asked. Mary will have to do some of her own research now. :-)