We left school for Berlin at 2pm on Wednesday and arrived at our hotel at midnight.
Our trip began with a tour around some of Berlin’s most famous sights, led by Mr Spurgeon. We visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Night of the Long Knives Memorial, the Roma Sinti memorial, the Holocaust memorial, Hitler’s bunker and the Topography of Terror. These are all things that we learnt about during our history lessons and in Holocaust memorial assemblies, but visiting the memorials and the Topography of Terror really instilled it in me how the Nazis believed that they were a superior race and what they were doing was justified. Seeing the memorials and about how many different groups were persecuted reminded me how this happened in the not-so-distant past, and the risks of it happening again. Our day continued with a tour by TCBC guides, we visited more places including the Tiergarten to see the T4 and homosexual memorials, Gendarmenmarkt, Bebelplatz, Lustgarten, and the reconstructed palace. We had an amazing tour guide who taught about us lots of different aspects of Germany in the 20th Century e.g., the book burning that took place at Bebelplatz in 1933 where Nazi students burnt around 20,000 books by authors that the Nazis didn’t like. We finished the day with a trip to a lovely Italian restaurant and a round of bowling.
On Friday, we went to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Plötzensee Prison, and had a tour around the Jewish quarters of Berlin. These were all led by the TCBC guides, who were very highly knowledgeable about everything that we visited. At Sachsenhausen, we saw the rooms where prisoners would have to stay, learnt about the jobs they had to do and the different methods the Nazis had for killing people, not just the gas chambers. In our tour of the Jewish Quarters with visited the Hackeschen Höfe and saw the workshop owned by Otto Weidt, who mainly employed deaf and blind Jews and did everything he could to protect them against the anti-Jewish measures. One of my highlights from the tour were the Stumbling Stones, they are all around Europe and they are to remember people who were persecuted by the Nazis. The stones have the person’s name, birth year, what happened to them e.g., deportation to Theresienstadt, and when they died. I had heard of them before but never realised how many they were. Although there are lots of memorials to the groups persecuted, I like the Stumbling Stones as although they are little, they tell the stories of thousands of people. In the evening, we had time to go shopping and then went to see the new Spiderman film – Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse.
On Saturday, we finished our trip by visiting Hohenschönhausen which is a former Stasi-Prison so linked to our Cold War topic. We then went to Berlin Olympic Park and got a tour of the stadium. I found it interesting to see how they have removed the Nazi paraphernalia but still embrace the history of what happened in the 1936 Olympics. They have done this by having the Jesse Owens Lounge and the coloured stones that were Swastikas have been rotated to create different patterns; they are still shadows of what was there. After this we headed to deportation track 17, which has stone slabs to commemorate how many Jews were deported each day.
It was an amazing trip and will be very helpful as we continue our studies on Weimar and Nazi Germany and then move onto the Cold War. The thing I found most interesting was how they have embraced the history without making memorial sights neo-Nazi pilgrimages or completely ignoring the horrific events that happened in Germany during the 20th Century.