This is my last (required) blog post for the World War Two Study tour as I am now in Berlin; I can’t believe the trip has gone by so quickly!
Being in Berlin has been an amazing experience thus far; I’m sad that I only have tomorrow (Sunday) and Monday left with the group!
Culturally, Berlin has been a learning experience. As opposed to Paris or London, I haven’t been in as many places where I have felt rushed or in an area with overwhelming numbers of people (of course, I’ve been in some relatively busy areas, but none of them have ever felt quite as crowded). Everything also feels much newer than any of the other places I have been in; this contextually makes quite a bit of sense because of Berlin’s history, especially in relation to the Cold War and the Second World War because so much was destroyed. Being on the Reichstag and seeing all the cranes building new things added on to the idea that something new is constantly coming up here.
Going off this, it was interesting to see the history of Potsdamer Platz. I saw a lot of photos with descriptions in one of the subway stations; though Potsdamer is now a major commercial area of the city, this was not really the case until recently because so much of it was destroyed during the Second World War (it had previously been a bustling area in the 1920s). This explains why everything is so new and modern.
The amount of English spoken also surprised me a little. While I wasn’t worried about being able to get what I needed in Berlin, I was surprised that I seemed to be greeted in English more than I was greeted in German.
Considering other aspects of Berlin’s culture, I find Germany’s remembrance of its events within everyday life to be interesting as well as humbling. The Holocaust remembrance stones, for example, were not thrown at my face; neither were other monuments and signs all over the city. Their presence, though, was still enough to remind me of what happened; hopefully these reminders are still very visible to those that live in Berlin day in and day out.
Today, we went to Sachenhausen. It was difficult for me because I ultimately was not sure of how I should feel: feeling sad about it didn’t seem to be quite enough for the place we were in. All I really can say is that I know I will never be able to completely understand what happened because I was not there; because of this, all I can really do is to respect the lives that ended there and try to learn all that I can. (I will say, however, I thought it was pretty disrespectful that there was a coffee shop there, just as one of the other students mentioned. I don’t think that it’s right to make money off a concentration camp, especially because it was a place where many people starved to death).
As much as I want to go home, I’ll definitely miss being in Germany. It’s been a great experience and I certainly would want to visit again! Until next time, I suppose.
Edit: On my free day, I also went to a flea market with several other students on the trip. It was an interesting thing to go to because it was a cool way to see something Berliners would go to in modern life. It was a pretty large market; there were several hundred people there just walking around and taking everything in. There were all sorts of vendors with lots of different types of food (German foods, of course, but many other things, like Indian food and even falafel, my favorite food). It was really neat because a lot of older items were being sold as well (old electronics, old pins from the East German government, etc.); it was like a window to the past in its own way. It was fun to do this because it was a way to participate in something modern, and of course, the shopping was great.