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Bazon Brock | The Troy of our Life


What we have is the space between Niederkirchner Strasse, Wilhelmstra_e, Anhalter Stra_e, Askanischem Platz, Mˆckernstra_e, Landwehrkanal, Mendelssohn_Platz, and Dessauer Stra_e. Oases of life in a flat wasteland, fields of ruined dreams, gardens of evil. An apotheosis of a world battered by humanity. A fragment as a whole, incomparable to any other territory so small in our world. Territory of nowhere.

Diaspora of remembrance, accusation, damnation, expulsion from the hell of realized utopias. This space, which can be crossed in just a few steps, hardly larger than a Baroque open-air stage or an English garden—and also similar to both with its stage-like scenery, ruinous buildings, and event podiums—this German garden is to be brought to life in the historic times that were sited here with the power of our imagination, which must be trained.

They are long periods of time, but no longer than what a historical consciousness can grasp: the consciousness of the permanence of change, of the continuity of ruptures, of the moment as eternity. How long is the moment in which (from the beginning of the trail near the former Vˆlkerkundemuseum [Museum of Ethnography] at the corner of Stresemannstra_e and Niederkirchner Stra_e to its endpoint at the pump station on the Landwehrkanal) the story leading from the end of Troy to Schliemann’s discovery of the Trojan treasures and the renewed burial of the treasure during the Second World War comes together beneath the debris that threatens again to bury us living Trojans.

That we become Trojans in this place is unfortunately not just essayistic fantasizing. Schliemann deposited his Priam’s treasure in the Vˆlkerkundemuseum to at least receive the honorary citizenship of Berlin, at the instigation of Professor Koch—an honorary doctorate or a professorship was not conceded to this poacher in the realm of archeological research and scholarship. But the securing of the treasure, motivated by a greed for gold, turned out to be a Trojan Horse for Prussia-Germany: because Schliemann, with his way of taking the Homeric myth literally, had shown a procedure to be extremely productive, the very procedure to which Germany would owe the greatest of its misery and its self-arrogant great minds.

This was true even before Schliemann’s seemingly conclusive demonstration—but only as a German faith in concepts and literalness. After Schliemann, there was no holding back: Bismarck’s, Wilhelm’s and above all Hitler’s great adventures and poaching in the garden of the Lord can only be understood when viewed from Schliemann’s quod erat demonstrandum: narratives, utopias, world designs of the arts and sciences were seen by the Germans of Prussian spirit as banal instructions for action for the realization of a world as they wanted it. And as banally and directly as possible, that is, in the most radical fashion.

Had not Hitler, for example, made all his plans known with the desirable clarity? How should Schliemann’s admirers be able to resist the plans being translated into action to the last drop of blood? In Germany, food is eaten as hot as it’s cooked, the most common call to order in German apartments is: “Go to the table, the food is getting cold!” It’s easy to get burned! We will be wary of understanding our historical exploration of the area as a political program in the Schliemannian sense.

But Schliemann’s approach seems to be the key for understanding what is specifically German, i.e., the radical and self-destructive elements in historical action. At the end of the historical trail in the pump station on the Landwehrkanal, before the memorials to Goethe, Fontane, and the Hercules sculpture, we want to use this key to open the iron heart of the Germans: once again to find Priam’s treasure? After all, the Trojans did not just arrive in Berlin with Schliemann.

At the center of our trail is Askanischer Platz, or Ascanian Square. It got its name from the Ascanians who—with Albrecht the Bear—began in 1134 to “colonize” on the banks of the Havel and Spree at the behest of Emperor Lothar. Beginning in 1150, the Ascanian Albrecht was entitled to call himself Margrave of Brandenburg. Until 1320 the Ascanians ruled in Altmark, Nordmark, and Brandenburg. They chose their name to indicate the family’s formidable origins, pregnant with history, for Ascanius is the Latinized name of one of Aeneas’s sons. Thus, Askanischer Platz was always Trojan territory, officially and purposely; because the Ascanians were the first “Germans” who ruled in this part of the world. Insofar as the Holy Roman Empire was really of the German nation, and insofar as the Romans justly derive from the Trojan progenitor Aeneas, German princes also were thus also descendants of Troy.

(Bazon Brock |  The Troy of our Life)

// Octocer 2006
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