BBS Member Ben Fisher’s first virtual tour was recently featured in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
On 8th November 2020, Ben’s remembrance event went ahead as scheduled. In previous years, he’s seen around 300 people sign up for the walking tour, which commemorates one of the most severe attacks on Jewish life Germany has ever seen.
Thanks to Covid-19 restrictions and a little innovation, last November’s tour was unlike any he’d done before. Over 6,000 people from all across the globe have now taken part in the Facebook-hosted experience!
What follows is an English translation of the article, written by Steffi Hentschke and published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday 26th December. Read the original article in full (and in German) here.
Just get us out of here!
Immediate proximity despite great distances: Tour guides lead us through the world online
“When the lockdown forces improvisation: travel guides and tour operators are moving their business online. Not everything can be sold online – but some things that seemed far away before are now within reach.
Ben Fisher is standing on the deserted Kurfürstendamm, leaves are gathering on the footpath. It is 8 November. The sun is shining on this cold Sunday, one day before the anniversary of the Reich Pogrom Night 83 years ago. During the most severe attack on Jewish life in Germany since the Middle Ages, an estimated 1500 Jews were killed and thousands of synagogues burned down. To commemorate the event, Fisher, a 37-year-old Israeli who has lived in Berlin for five years, is offering this special city tour. “I will start directly with the days before the pogroms, and as we walk, I will tell you more about the history of the Jews in Germany,” he says in English, walking off in the direction of the former synagogue on Fasanenstraße. About two hundred people watch him, they are not there, but they are there live.
At the moment, the world can only be discovered from the sofa, and what sounds like a dreary new reality sometimes reveals unexpected possibilities. Interest in Berlin city guide Ben Fisher’s memorial tour has always been high, with up to three hundred participants signing up for it in recent years. But the video of his first virtual tour has meanwhile been seen by almost 6,000 people from the United States, Israel and Brandenburg. The tour does what historians have been calling for for years – a digital form of remembrance culture. Those who follow Fisher on his one-hour tour get to know Berlin from a Jewish perspective and are surprised to discover that even if the virtual trip does not provide any sensory impressions, the knowledge gained arrives on the sofa.
Before Ben Fisher came to Berlin, Germany was the forbidden country for him, as he writes about himself on the website of the Berlin Guides Association. “Today I think the city is the most exciting place ever,” he says in a conversation via Video Call, a few days after the tour. Like his colleagues, he has had to make do without an income for months. But offering city tours online was not an option for him until recently. Only the second lockdown forced him to improvise, and a memorial tour was already planned. “I’m overwhelmed by the response and have to process that first,” says Fisher, thinking about what he can learn from his first attempt. “Maybe it takes the connection with education to get people excited about it. Classic sightseeing, on the other hand, doesn’t work online.””
If you missed it, you can still access the full tour on Facebook by clicking above.
Visit Ben’s profile to learn more about him and the tours he offers.