Artist’s war memorial at Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz

by Jul 12, 2016Berlin Region


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Berlin is a city that is filled with memorials to fallen buildings and people as well as churches or synagogues that were destroyed during World War II. They are all moving, all stark reminders of a terrible time in our world’s history. The most poignant of these of course is the much-visited Kaiser Wilhelm Church right in the center of Berlin where much of the bombed church was left standing as a memorial to peace as well as to the will of the Berlin people in rebuilding their city.

Church skeleton memorial - bethlehemkirchplatz

The subject: This memorial on the Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz (Bethlehem Church Square) is a little different. It was actually the work of Spanish artist Juan Garaizabel to commemorate the Bohemian Bethlehem Church. This small church was built for Bohemian evangelical refugees in about 1735 and was a center of the community. It was destroyed by bombing in 1943. Garaizabal constructed a skeletal steel framework in the dimensions of the church that was placed on the site in June 2012. It was to remain until September, but approval was received for it to remain until fall 2013. The memorial was so haunting in its simplicity that it received permission to remain for an unnamed period of time.

The inspiration: We came across this structure in July 2013 completely by chance. It is on a side street not far from the tourist-filled Checkpoint Charlie area and not mentioned in tourist guides. Such a surprise encounter makes such a memorial even more mysterious. Its framework rises 30 meters above the quiet square’s stones with the background of both modern and older buildings as contrast to its starkness. You can wander “in” and around it, imagining the worshipers inside so many decades ago.

Artist’s tools: My Nikon D90 served me well for many an adventure, as did the 18-105mm lens f/3.5-5.6, both of which I got when I returned to photography after about 25 years! What I like about this focal length on a lens is its ability to capture almost everything for me without fiddling with changing lens or being draped with several cameras with different lenses. I’m a simple photographer like that. For this photo at the Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz I was set at a 1/320th of second at f/9 with a focal length of 18mm. I also try to avoid over-processing so this has only the simplest of touches.

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