Today, May 10th was a really fascinating day here in Cologne. We were able to sleep in until around 9, got some breakfast and then started our programming at 10. I have noticed they are a lot more environmentally conscious, particularly here in the hotel. For example they don’t have to-go cups out and ready to take I had to ask for one, and after asking I received just the cup without a lid which was totally functional just a little different than the US. Additionally in the hotel you have stick your room card in a particular slot in order for the lights to come on. This ensures we won’t leave without shutting off the lights. Everyday we start by gathering as a group in the lobby of the hotel where we debrief yesterdays events and then students present on what we are doing that day. Today we went to two Museums that were both located within walking distance from the hotel. First we went to the Kathe Kollwitz museum. Kathe Kollowitz is a famous artist who is known for her success as a woman in a time where women artists were seldom. She came from a well-off, open minded family that allowed her to practice art. Her art often showed people in poverty, war, and death along with many self-portraits and drawings of her family. Her art was incredibly controversial at the time because she was a woman and also because she was exposing a different side of Germany with the impoverished and the workers. In a lot of her work she displayed the strength of women and mothers. I also learned that she was very active in making and distributing posters that were anti-nazi, pro-choice for women amongst other political stances. Even though Hitler banned her work and she was offered asylum in the US amongst other countries she stayed in Germany until she passed away. The last years of her life were very sad and lonely years for her. This museum of her work was incredibly inspiring and eye opening. After this we had a little bit of time and went to a cute coffee shop where I had some coffee and really good chips and dip. The next museum we went to was The NS Documentation center of Cologne which was a headquarters for the gestapo during the period of national socialism in Germany. This is where the Gestapo did their work and also where hundreds of people were brought, imprisoned, and mostly killed during 1933-1945. We were able to hear from a very informative guide about the people who were imprisoned and that time period in Germany in general. Many of the imprisoned people were able to write on the walls, so it was fascinating to read what they had written. There were writings from people all over including, Russia, France, and Ukraine. It was incredible to learn about this time period from the Germans perspective.
Something that surprised/intrigued me today was the tour guide at The NS Documentation Center and her view on the period of national socialism. She looked at that period of time for what is was which was terrible, but instead of continuing to feel guilty or ashamed or just not talk about it she really embraced it a catalyst for awareness and reflection. An awareness to ensure that nothing like that happens ever again with an emphasis on being open minded to others and their differences. I thought hearing this perspective was very eye opening, and even though that is what I would hope to hear someone from Germany say about that time it was surprising to hear someone take that perspective first hand. I was also surprised to hear that the fist it was spoken of in Germany wasn’t until 1960’s.
Today was very informative and connected back to my theme of religion and its role in the treatment of others. With Kathe Kolowitz her grandfather was protestant, and so her family was likely protestant but she was not an incredibly religious person and often found herself fighting against others who identified as more religious. Especially when it came to being pro-choice and pro-feminist she was really pushing boundaries. Her and her husband fought through their professions for those who had less than them and were seen as differnt. She would sell her work to raise money for those her were poor and really gave people without any representation a face. They didn’t look down upon the difference but rather worked on their behalf in hopes of change and a better life for them. The gestapo headquarters was the complete opposite. Hitler wanted there to be no differences amongst people including religion and started working towards “Reich Church” a nazi approved/influenced version of Christianity. The gestapo could have used this goal and mindset when they imprisoned and killed so many people. Othering those that were imprisoned allowed them to dehumanize them because of their differences and carry out acts as though they were less than. I think each member of the gestapo likely had their own way of rationalizing what they were doing whether that included their faith, potentially working towards the new Hitler approved faith or potentially not thinking of their faith at all.