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It seems that the Holiday Season is the season for Sweets of all kinds. You receive them as gifts, you make some to give as a gift or for dessert or to offer to people visiting. Here at our house we have little bags of goodies, full of chocolates and other sweets we give out to guests. Then there are the cakes and pastries, here have another one, but I already had 3, it does not matter who is counting anyway it’s the Holidays.

We have enough sweets to last us until at least Valentines day. It is almost as if because it is the end of the year over eating is a way of saying, you know what, I made it through another year, I deserve a reward especially after 2020!

A few years ago when I worked on the painting exhibit by Canadian War Artists at the Canadian War Museum, I discovered a collection of Canadian paintings numbering about 1000, by Canadian men who had enlisted for the 1914-1918 conflict. Their job was to document the horrors of the battlefield for posterity. These fellows were in many cases painters, 6 of them would go on after the war to form the celebrated Canadian Group of Seven. One of those men was A.Y. Jackson. His paintings of battlefield and ravaged landscape where presented juxtaposed to those of another famous artists Otto Dix who fought against him in the trenches on the German Side. Both men knew each other and respected each others work, lived long lives but unfortunately never met. Otto Dix in Germany created the movement called New Objectivity in painting with his harshly realistic paintings. He quickly fell afoul of the Nazi regime in 1933 and was declared degenerate by their ideological standards. He stayed in Germany but was under house arrest and narrowly avoided the concentration camps.

The group of seven during the years 1919-1933 were painting Canadian Wilderness Landscapes, a first since no one before them had done it. It was new and exciting in the Canadian Art World. What many people do not know is that Max Aitken Lord Beaverbrook not only financed the work of Canadian War Artists but took care of collecting the works. Today this war art collection is mostly in the vaults of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Some pieces are seen from time to time by the public. The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton houses the Art collection of Max Aitken, and it is impressive. He had the money and influence to acquire great art and the gallery is celebrated for its works of art. It is currently closed for an expansion project until 2022.

I was looking at yet another architectural project in Berlin. A city that has experienced a renaissance since 1989 with the fall of the Wall. This one is the building of a Museum to Exile, dedicated to all the people forced out in the period 1933-1940 by the policies of the Nazi Regime. Artists, opposition politicians, scientists, academics, musicians, basically anyone who was targeted and told to get out before it was too late.

The new museum to be built with an opening date of 2025 will be located in what use to be the Official Train Station of the German State, Anhalter Bahnhof. All important arrivals and departures from Berlin took place at this train station, the Kaiser used the Anhalter Bahnhof for this purpose and then it was used by the Nazi Regime for welcoming friendly Heads of Government like Italian Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini on his visit to Berlin in 1938. Between 1933 and 1940 it became also the train station used by people forced out, going into exile because they fell afoul of the Nazi Regime, thousands left for other countries in Europe through this station.

Berlin’s Anhalter Bahnhof in 1900.

What is left today of this once large train station in central Berlin.

The station has stood as a ruin for more than 70 years, everything else that was once part of this great building a field of ruin and open land. It is not clear why only the portico survived, but part of the Communist ideology wanted such vestiges to teach people a lesson and East Berlin was until 1990 strewn with such ruins. East Germany occupied by the Russians was full of historical and cultural sites, left mostly abandoned. Cities like Leipzing where J.S.Bach lived and worked suffered greatly at the hands of the East German government who demolished many historical sites they did not like, Dresden and Potsdam are another example of cities re-built to fit the new ideology. What was East Berlin was full of monuments to the past and it too got the bulldozer treatment. On the other hand Nazi building like the Air Ministry of Herman Goering unscathed by the war were re-used and housed Communist party functionaries and Soviet agents. This building today still stands and houses the German Government Social Services dept. it resembles in its design two buildings in Ottawa on Wellington Street, the West and East Memorial Buildings.

The Danish architectural firm of Dorte Mandrup in Copenhagen is now tasked with building the structure that will house the Exil museum, which aims to portray the history of German exile during the Nazi era. It is estimated that half a million people fled Nazi persecution.

The Anhalter Bahnhof station in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district was one of the most important long-distance train stations in Berlin during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic.

After the rise of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler’s ascent to power in the spring of 1933, many people left the city using this station. People like Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Klaus Mann, Lotte Laserstein, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Gropius, Billy Wilder.

From 1942, the Nazis used the station to deport Jews to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Many of those emigrants were not allowed to work in their new host countries, or banned from practicing their actual professions. In addition to losing their homes, friends and family, they also lost their cultural and professional identity this way. Many became destitute, and were greeted by rejection and animosity in their new homes.

The construction of the museum will largely be financed by private donations, with costs being estimated to run up to €25 to 30 million ($30 to 35 million).

The New Exil Museum in Berlin, schedule to open in 2025.