I’d heard a lot about the derelict Iraqi Embassy ever since I first moved to Berlin, but like so many of the post-war relics scattered around the city, I figured it would be much the same: grey, bleak, empty. And in a remarkably grateful manner, as with so many of the previously-suggested tourist sights, I have declined the offers to visit the embassy. I am no longer an Auslander after all, I live here don’t you know? Until now, of course.
The decision came after seeing the desolate photographs Lucy took of the space. Surely there must be an amazing story behind this building? If there wasn’t, I would immediately go myself and invent one, put it in Wikipedia and re-write history for the good of all mankind.
I decided to set off, in the dark, with Cat Power’s 'Keep on Runnin'' echoing in my ear. There is nothing quite like the contrived situation of atmosphere. Little did I know, I would not need to contrive a thing. The area itself: tense, atmospheric, desolate, and completely full of life in a very surreal way.
The story goes, the building was built in 1974 at a time of good relations between Iraq and GDR. Iraq had been the first non-socialist state to recognise East Germany as a country in 1969. Apparently the East Germans were happy for Iraqis to use East Berlin as a base for operations in West Berlin. The situation remained relatively ordinary with the embassy, or as ordinary as it gets in the Iraq/ Saddam Hussein era. Eventually Germany re-unified and no longer condoned Iraqi activity and asked them to leave. Totally unrelated, but an equally important turn of events; Iraq entered the first Gulf War just as reports were confirmed of them harbouring massive amounts of explosives and weapons at the German embassy.
The stronghold remains completely untouched since the day it was evacuated in what seems like quite a rush; books, papers, jackets, diaries, folders, files and the eerie atmosphere of life still resonate in the building.
The building is still legally owned by Iraq, though it seems the country can’t be the bothered to deal with it, especially considering they have a brand new, plush embassy across town. Wonder what's in there?