Or take the Topography of Terror, a museum—built on the site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters—that fully documents the rise, reign, and fall of the Nazi regime. The Nazis were excellent at keeping records (some of these records served as sources for the researchers in the stoplersteine project), and thousands of records are laid out here—official memos, photographs, newspapers, film reels, and more—to sear into the world’s memory that these things really happened.

A short walk away is one of the last surviving stretches of the Berlin Wall, a monument to the stark cruelty of what was once the Communist bloc but also to its desperation (East German leaders erected the wall in 1961 to keep their people from escaping to the West) and to its fragility (the wall collapsed, along with the regime it protected, a mere 28 years later). Except for these fragments, the wall has no legacy; many of the once-barren areas where it once encircled the western part of the city are now gleaming with modern towers, shops, and art centers.