A Brief Berlin Byline

The Berlin State Library & Wings of Desire!

Posted in Uncategorized by Robbie LaFleur on October 8, 2009

IMG_0388We visited the Berlin State Library today, the Staatsbiblithek zu Berlin – Preussischer Kulturbesitz.  It was established by the Great Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia in 1661.  Once again we heard amazing stories of the Library during WWII, the time of divided Berlin, and the present.  A beautiful building was built on the Unter von Linden street in east Berlin in 1914.   Librarians started to make plans to evacuate materials from the Library as early as 1939, long before Berliners believed bombs would fall on their city.  The collection was sent to many sites during the war, and has never been successfully reunited.  600,000 items were definitely lost.  Some portions of the collection sent to sites in Poland and Russia have never been returned.  In postwar Berlin 2 million items were returned to West Berlin, but the card catalog remained in East Berlin.  The Library was joined together administratively following reunification.

We visited the main, large west Berlin site,  a remarkable modern building designed by Hans Scharoun and completed in the 1970s.  It was named a historical monument by the city of Berlin a few years ago.  Our librarian guide was a bit unenthusiastic about the designation, because it means that physical changes needed to upgrade library services are difficult to make and involve a lot of red tape.   The carpet was a horrid neutral khaki/beige color – like dirty sponge moss, a colleague noted.  The librarian said it needed to be changed, and they would have to replace the original.  They could still get it from the manufacturer, at a premium price.

We were standing in the vast reading room areas of the library when our guide mentioned that it was used for the library scenes in the Wim Wender’s film Wings of Desire.  It’s my favorite movie, and I immediately recalled the scenes and the setting.  What a great day.  What a great trip.

One Response

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  1. ann said, on October 8, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    This is all so cool!! I love that you got to visit the site of your favorite movie, and I’m glad to know what your favorite movie IS (I love it, too). I’m vicariously enjoying your travels. No one does museums, libraries, and train schedules like the Germans. And no one posts travel blogs like Robbie.

    xo Ann


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