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Culture

Bringing 9/11 Horror to Berlin

The visitor count at a Berlin photo exhibit featuring amateur and professional photos of New York on Sept. 11 shows just how traumatic the attacks have been for the rest of the world.

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The Berlin exhibit features more than 500 photos

Before the ash and soot of the burning WTC towers had settled, the “Here is New York” exhibition had already opened up - just a few blocks from Ground Zero.

What started as a spontaneous compilation of 100 photos has grown into a collection of more than 10,000 prints by both professional and amateur photographers. The exhibition was an instant success, attracting more than 3 million visitors in New York alone since it opened last Fall.

Now the exhibit is drawing similar crowds in Berlin, where it kicked off a European tour in the historic Martin Gropius Bau in early July. Almost 50,000 visitors have flocked to the 500-photo show in its first few weeks – more than any other held in the museum in recent years, said Arne Mutert of the German Interior Ministry, which is co-sponsoring the German exhbitions together with the Federal Agency for Civic Education.

The public's to discuss

Munter said it was the show’s subtitle “Images of Democracy” that first caught the ministry’s attention.

“The most convincing argument for bringing the exhibition to Berlin was its subtitle,” Mutert said in an interview with DW-WORLD. “The show is a civic initative to cope with the events, and I think it's very important that the discussion of September 11th isn't left up to the government. If we want to come to terms with the event we need a broad civic discussion, and that’s what the exhibition does.”

Visitors to “Here is New York,” are allowed to formulate their own impressions and interpretations of the event, without the media’s filter, said Mutert.

“It triggers discussion and gives motivation to rewrite the pictures in your head, giving you multiple perspectives, as opposed to the media´s 9/11 coverage,” he said.

Berlin touch

The Berlin show has a home touch, an additional exhibition titled “Mein New York” (My New York), showcasing Berliners´ own pre-9/11 photos from NY, and their handwritten impressions, and feelings about the catastrophe.

“My husband worked from seven years on the WTC project as technical designer… New York was like our second home and the unthinkable catastrophe that has happened there, hurts us deeply,” wrote Mura Grieius, of Berlin, in the guest book laid out for the show. “We love that fascinating, lively, and sometimes difficult city, and its people. We visit every year, and we continue to do so in the years to come.”

Michael Shulan, a New York writer who organized the exhibit with three photographer friends, said he was initially surprised by the great interest and resonance the show received abroad. In time, though, he has begun to see why.

“Ground Zero can stand for anywhere in the world, and this show is a presentation of people, reacting to things they don’t understand, and human emotion,” he told DW-WORLD. “9/11 is only part of a larger story and now we understand this is only part of a larger problem.”

“Here is New York” will also be presented in Dresden, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, and Paris to mark the upcoming first anniversary of 9/11. The upcoming exhibition in Washington D.C. will include photos of the Pentagon, taken by official Pentagon photographers, revealing an intimate view of the destruction.

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