If you walk along ‘Unter den Linden’, you likely won’t spot Bebelplatz right away, what with the impressive façades of the Alte Bibliothek buildings and the Prinzessinnenpalais on either side of it vying for your attention. If that weren’t enough, the striking dome of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral can be glimpsed between two buildings as you look further back. It is often only on second glance that you notice the flagstones of Bebelplatz and your gaze is drawn to the ground. It represents the central axis of the Forum Fridericianum, comprising the ‘Palais des Prinzen Heinrich’ (now the main building of Humboldt University), the library (now the Alte Bibliothek) and the Opera House.
You’ll also soon notice that passers-by tend to stop and look downwards at a particular spot on the square. Here, Israeli artist Micha Ullman has created an underground installation as a reminder of the Nazi book burnings. A clear slab in the ground reveals a subterranean room consisting solely of empty white bookcases.
In 1933, students, professors and SA & SS members burned books they deemed to be ‘un-German’. These included works by authors such as Erich Kästner, Heinrich Mann, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Kurt Tucholsky.