chapter  3
28 Pages

DEMOLITION, CLEANSING AND MOVING ON

One approach to difficult heritage is to obliterate it – to remove it from view. Another, related, is to ‘mutilate’ or ‘deface’ it – a procedure that might make its origins unclear and that is often perceived as removing its power or ability to ‘give testimony’. The Turkish demolition of Armenian churches and monasteries in Turkey, Ceauşescu’s razing of ‘ethnic’ architecture in Romania, and the Chinese destruction of Buddhist monasteries in Tibet are just some twentieth-century examples of such demolition and mutilation as part of wider ‘ethnic cleansing’. Nazi destruction of synagogues was one aspect of the elimination of Jewish presence in Germany – even while, at the same time, those in Prague were to be kept as part of a Museum of an Extinct Race.1 Demolishing buildings or certain architectural features may also be implicated in demoting or forgetting particular political regimes and social orders. In postwar Germany, for example, the East German dictatorship cleared some buildings deemed ‘bourgeois’, such as Berlin’s Schloss on Alexanderplatz. More recently, the current dismantling of the Palast der Republik – the building ‘for the people’ with which the GDR government replaced the Schloss – might in turn be seen as an attempt to excise a particularly visible and central reminder of Germany’s socialist history.2