1. #0 Intro
  2. #01 A Forgotten Past
  3. #02 Petersallee
  4. #03 Nazis' Vestige
  5. #04 A skeleton in the closet
Andrew Connelly and Marine Leduc

Berlin's Streets of Shame

The Deadly Semantics of Germany's Colonial Past

Berlin's Streets of Shame
The Deadly Semantics of Germany's Colonial Past
#0 Intro

Whilst Germany's wartime history is extensively documented and widely known, its colonial history is often left overshadowed. One of the legacies of the former empire can be found tucked away in Wedding district, a Northwestern part of Berlin, where the roads bear the name of the former colonies. Some residents of Berlin's so-called 'African Quarter', with an intimate connection to the countries in question, are uniting to raise awareness of atrocities committed during the country's short-lived colonial era. Starting with the name itself.

The signs of the 'African Quarter' are not only geographical references. In 1901, as Germany's colonial enterprise began to expand, Kaiser Wilhelm (Wilhelm II) declared in a speech that the nation needed to conquer her 'place in the sun'. Fatally for the Africans, he had some reliable deputies to help him carry this out and now the names of the colonial deputies accused of massacres and genocide sit uncomfortably to those of the subjugated countries.

One such sign, innoculously named Petersallee is at the centre of a poisonous debate.

#01 A Forgotten Past

Well dressed Berliners stroll past the luxury designer shops of Friedrichstrasse on a chilly November evening...

01 A forgotten past
Friedrichstrasse

Friedrichstrasse

Way on the other side of the capital, in the less glamourous but infinitely more multicultural district of Wedding ...

Nachtigalplatz

Nachtigalplatz

#02 Petersallee

Many might ask, what's in a name ? But, as Christian points out, for his East African colleagues, the name Carl Peters has a sinister resonance...

02 Petersallee
Petersallee

Petersallee

#03 Nazis' Vestige

We stop at the beginning of a long pathway that stretch into the darkness...

03 Nazis' Vestige
'Permanent Colonie Togo"

'Permanent Colonie Togo"

#04 A skeleton in the closet

After an hour after winding through the backstreets of the African Quarter, we culminate by a small clearing by the busy throughfare of Mullerstrasse. A two-metre high plaque stands proudly proclaiming the African Quarter and on the other side...apparently identical text...

04 A skeleton in the closet
Plaque - Official side, without quotations

Plaque - Official side, without quotations

In the meantime though, the street of the vibrant, productive and diverse 'African Quarter' will continue to tell stories of pain, sorrow and renewal. But thanks to some committed individuals, these tales will no longer stay buried.

A multimedia reportage by Andrew Connelly and Marine Leduc, in collaboration with Europe & Me online magazine.