Berlin antisemitism commissioner stands by call to rename problematic streets

The commissioner on combating antisemitism of the city-state of Berlin, Samuel Salzborn has defended proposals to rename streets and squares with problematic antisemitic references.

“I do not share the impression that historical memories are lost through renaming,” Salzborn told the “Berliner Morgenpost”: “A city map is not a museum.”

Salzborn pointed out that in the spring of 2021, the German Association of Cities had explicitly stated that street names were a form of praise. Therefore, they must be critically reviewed in the present.

A scientific study commissioned by Salzborn met with a controversial response in December 2021. It found problematic antisemitic references in 290 street and square names in Berlin. Consequently, the author of the study, Felix Sassmannshausen,  recommended a public debate and in many cases the renaming of these places.

These included street names already under discussion such as Treitschkestraße in Berlin-Steglitz, named after a Prussian historian who questioned “the national reliability and cultural affiliation of the Jews to the German nation” and Pacelliallee in Berlin-Dahlem, named after the WWII-era Pope, whose actions in the Holocaust remain deeply controversial.

In other cases, such as Thomas-Mann-Straße or Adenauerplatz, the expert pleaded for further research and digital contextualisation. For his expert report, the scientist had reviewed all Berlin street names between May and October last year.

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