Andrew J. BacevichMarch 6, 2004 - 6:00pm0 comments
The apartment we’re staying in overlooks the Wannsee, the great body of water that cuts through Berlin’s westernmost precincts. Each morning we throw back the drapes, and beyond the sloping lawn, beyond the boats in their slips, the lake is there to greet us, sometimes glittering in chilly sunlight, at other times-like today, because snow is falling-enveloped in wintry gloom.
The lake is narrow at this end. From our bedroom window we can see the villas and yacht clubs lining the opposite shore. In one such villa-hardly a ten-minute ride on the 114 bus from our flat-fifteen high-ranking Nazi functionaries gathered on January 20, 1942, to rubber-stamp Hitler’s plans to cleanse Europe of its Jews.
The Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz, maintained today by the German government as a memorial and reminder, is itself a kind of metaphor for the Third Reich. Approached from the street-through an immense iron gate, up a circular driveway, toward the imposing columns flanking the main entryway-the sprawling three-story mansion presents a formidable appearance, but the image does not withstand closer inspection. The interior of the building is cold and devoid of architectural interest. The room in which the details of the Final Solution were worked out-once a dining room-is shabby and mean.
In another sense, the house is a microcosm of present-day Berlin. Arranged throughout it are photographs and blown-up...