This morning I awoke in Hotel Morningland, an inn just a hop and a skip away from the German Federal Archives in Berlin, a repository of disturbing files about the realities of life under National Socialism. Being in Berlin can be hard if one works with this history and has a personal connection to it as I do. It was a place where many decisions which reflect the worst sides of humanity were taken. Berliners seem to be aware of the greyness and the hardness that 20th century history cast upon them, generally characterizing themselves as inconsiderate and unfriendly.
In Hotel Morningland there are no chocolates on the pillow or any needless excess, but there is an immediate feeling of peace. On my bed is a laminated yellow welcome letter with a "P.S." on it which explains the letter in sign language. On the back of the letter is the sign language alphabet which I am free to choose to learn.
I wander down the heigh-ceilinged, dark hallways of this 19th century building wondering what it is about this place that gives me such a feeling of peace. In a brochure at the reception, I read that it was founded as a place for educating women working in the service of the Church. In later Cold War years it became a place for East-West exchanges. Today it is largely maintained by handicapped persons. Throughout its existence, this place seems to have challenged the idea of exclusion based on the premise that certain persons do not have as great a worth as others. Women have the right to be educated, people living under totalitarianism must be listened to, people with disabilities have the right to work and be a part of our society.
I want to live in the idea of Hotel Morningland (Hotel Morgenland in German, which incidentally also translates to Hotel Futureland in English), in its unswerving respect for the inviolability of each human being. Our societies are changing - being forcibly changed by a war happening in another part of the world, and in the storm there are certain things we must hold fast to. If we do not, we will be lost, swept away by fear and paranoia, just as those who composed the documents now filed in the Bundesarchiv were. Just as grandfather and grandmother were.
There is a chapel in the court yard for contemplation and reflection. I'll be there before leaving this morning and heading back into the storm.
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