top of page
  • Writer's pictureBen Zimdahl

Writing the Environment

Updated: Jan 16

The Voice of the Environment.

Koppenplatz: Such Things Within an Abandoned Room

Chime – Toll. Chime – Toll. Chime – Toll. Chime – Toll Chime – Toll. “Aramaic: 'skull.' ... Golgotha is the site of the crucifixion of Jesus and two others under the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate. The Greek equivalent is kranion (Luke 23:33), translated as calvaria in the Latin Vulgate version, the origin of the English term calvary.” (Flinn 2016)

Not the Golgotha situated with immediacy outside of the walls of Jerusalem, but the Golgatha-Kirche, or Golgatha Church, beyond the boundaries of the Koppenplatz, Berlin-Mitte, Scheunenviertel. In contrast to a general effect of much contemporary modern architecture, such a building from 1900 potentially offers many a suitable breeding ground for a small species of bird such as the sparrow found here within the square. Such perfectly tiny various seeds afoot the rose beds to be gleaned with beak directly from the stalks of grass and weeds on which they come, warmed in summer sunlight. The chirping song of our seemingly timid feeding frenzy permeates the bushes and trees, communicating exactly this. BANG – An apparently unaccountable incident from amongst the cumulous sounds of the roads paralleling the ‘platz’ or square on all sides comes entering the park with the air. Human faces passing through the park exhibit at once both particularly questioning and curious demands toward the location of this incongruous sound, and the taller trees of the skirts of the square welcomingly receive a flutter of previously feeding sparrows. 10! ..9! ..8! ..7! ..6! ..5! ..4! ..3! ..2! ..1. “Ich Komme ! (I’m coming!)” “Ich hab’ euch! (I got you!)" A little girl; maybe 5, maybe 6, maybe 7. The lime-rich gravel orderly passing through the square making up the pathways is to emit its characteristic squelching under the shoes of the child running. Little bugs and minuscule insects continuously become entrapped, in our miniature glassy circles resting lively atop comparatively sharp beaks. Sufficient packages of protein to be carried back to hatchlings in the nest. Whether carrying such a full meal or not, the small bird is overcome with a responsive flutter of temperament as also of wings. As routinely pruned and seasonally weathered rose bushes we stand insufficiently dense to the purpose of secluding something much larger than a sparrow as namely the two boys at the recipient end of their game of hide and seek. The two boys; maybe 7 maybe 8 maybe 9, all but immediately officially discovered, race further along our sides, followed by the young girl whose excitement carries her at their same speed and direction. “Ich habe euch gefunden! (I’ve found you!)” “Ahhhh.” With a shudder of surprise that comes in a successive wave from my left and a uniform displacement, we lift up as one and land in the newly safe-distanced places amongst the grass in the centre of the border afforded by our rosebushes. Just beyond where the most of the sparrows have repositioned themselves on the grass stands The Abandoned Room memorial statue. By Karl Biedermann, it is comprised of a bronze dining room floor of original size and without walls; a table with drawer; and two chairs left rushedly in disarray, with one pushed back from the table and the second toppled, lying on its side. The memorial statue, central and situated at the front of the Koppenplatz was originally the winning entry in a competition established by the East Berlin city government to "memorialise, for the first time in DDR history, the Night of the Pogrom (Kristallnacht) on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary,” in 1988, of which the sculpture didn’t come into fruition until after the fall of the Berlin Wall (Loeb 2009). O the habitations of death Invitingly appointed For the host who used to be a guest O you fingers Laying the threshold Like a knife between life and death— O you chimneys, O you fingers And Israel’s body as smoke through the air! Nandy Sachs’ poem says to us, engraved as it is in a frame around the bronze floor of The Abandoned Room. The poem of 1967 as well as the memorial here at Koppenplatz situate themselves appropriately in a sociohistorical context reaching as far back as 1737, when the then King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm I, put forth the order that ruled all Jewish residents not in ownership of their own home to reside outside of the city walls of Berlin. Which meant living here in the Scheunenviertel , or 'barn neighbourhood', then occupied by the numerous stables that supplied the meat market of the city centre (Scheunenviertel - Berlin Lexikon). The high number of eastern Jewish immigrants who came across land, the majority fleeing persecution, as well as those meeting a growing demand of industry in the German capital saw the Scheunenviertel district alone house around 50000 Jewish people by 1933 (Brgermeister). A banana peel near a bin attracts so many of the aggressive and difficultly discouraged summer wasps of Berlin, that they soon extend their inquisitiveness without hesitation to three girls who have come to eat ice cream on the park bench. And they are just as soon driven back out of the park through this obtrusiveness. The wasps fly around and around a remnant of melted cream. A breeze sweeps through the square and arouses a soothing whispering clatter from the now many leaved trees bordering the grass and the smaller trees and the roses and the weeds. A whisp of dust moves some paces along the path that the children run along by the benches where people intermittently stop to sit. Only after its subsiding do the swallows manage to sing atop its contribution, they hop equally eager and timid back, two paces to every 4 or 5 chirps, out and around the park. Works Cited: Brgermeister, Martin. “Die Gründung Berlins, Die Geschichte Berlins.” p25, content/uploads/2014/09/Die_Chronik_Berlin.pdf. Flinn, F. K. (2016). Golgotha. In F. K. Flinn, Encyclopedia of world religions: Encyclopedia of Catholicism (2nd ed.). Facts On File. Credo Reference: fofc/golgotha/0?institutionId=1571 Loeb, Carolyn, ‘The City as Subject: Contemporary Public Sculpture in Berlin’ (2009) 35(6) Journal of Urban History p 864 Nelly Sachs, O the Chimneys (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1967), translated by Michael Roloff.“Scheunenviertel.” Scheunenviertel - Berlin Lexikon, Berliner Bezirkslexikon, Mitte, 7 Oct. 2010,

36 views0 comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page