by Makayla Waterman and Jessica Fette
On the final day of our European Model of Sport trip, we took a city bike tour around Berlin. While riding through the streets of Germany, we viewed many historical sites such as the Berlin Wall, Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial, and more.
Germany was once divided into East and West Germany. West Germany was under American, British, and French control, while the Soviets ruled the East. Life was much better in the West as they had more freedom and rights. Many people living in the East would try to escape to the West, but if caught, could spend up to five years in prison. The East tried to fix this problem by using 40,000 soldiers to build a wall topped with barbed wire; but not even that could stop people. So they built another wall! On the bigger wall they put sewage pipes and the other they again put barbed wire.
The space between the two walls was called the “Death Strip” because so many people lost their lives trying to escape. In the picture below, West Germany is on the left and East Germany is on the right. It was chilling to ride a bike through this space knowing so many people died here. It was a great opportunity for remembrance and reflection.
One of the many government buildings we stopped at was named Reichstag and it was the building where Hitler sat and controlled Berlin. Reichstag was built in 1884 and was burned down in 1933, so for 49 years this enormous building sat here and housed multiple governments. In 1933 there were rumors that an activist by the name Marinus Van Der Lubbe single handedly burned down the parliament building in an act against Hitler, but many do not believe that. The popular opinion about this tragic fire was that the communist started the fire as a sign of overthrowing the government and taking control. The building was rebuilt and is now being used as a government building as well as a tourist sight. The top of the building as you see below is a huge glass dome which is to represent government transparency as you can go inside and see directly down into government meetings. This building has a lot of history revolved around it and it is very impressive in size.
Below is a picture of the Holocaust Memorial which was one of the last stops on the tour. It’s full name is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and was built in 2005. The meaning of the sculptures is open to interpretation. Some say the blocks look like graves in a cemetery. One of the most striking features of the memorial is the ability to disappear into it so quickly. Standing outside the memorial, you don’t realize how tall the stones in the middle are or how many people are actually walking around through the maze. There is an eerie feeling walking through the site, and you never know what is going to be around the corner. There are also other memorials around the square commemorating the other groups that fell victim to the Nazis such as euthanization victims and homosexuals, but the Jehovah witnesses did not want a memorial in their honor.
Today marked our last day in Berlin as well as our last day in Europe. We were able to see so many cool sights today during our bike tour which made our last day special. We saw a lot of churches, many buildings Hitler owned while he was in power and we even saw the place where he killed himself. We also saw parts of the Berlin Wall and different checkpoints that surrounded it. Overall, this tour was very informative and we all learned a lot during it. We ended our trip with some of the most important things in Germany history and I think that is very cool. I am sure we will all miss Europe and all the fun experiences we had with this group.