Language translations between English and other languages have been difficult, especially the word laundry, but the translation for race in German is interesting. While at the German Historical Museum, Lauren Henry, our class instructor, told a few of us students why race was uncommon to talk about in Europe. She had learned that the word “race” in German means “breed” so it is weird to talk about race because they only refer to it when talking about dogs or other animals breeding. Regarding World War II, it makes it even clearer that when the Nazis wanted an Aryan (white, blonde, blue-eyed people) race, they saw humans as animals to breed. That is why they tried to remove the unwanted characteristics by their own selection.
I am very passionate about Gay rights issues so I was excited that across from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe there was a modern memorial for the gay people that were in concentration camps. The memorial was supposed to remember the gay people that were never freed from the camps and were thrown straight into prison after the war since being gay was still not socially acceptable. When looking at the memorial it was completely underwhelming. It was a concrete block with no signs or plaques anywhere explaining what it was for. On one side was a little window which you could peer inside to watch a video. The video was just of lesbian and gay couples today interacting and it felt like we were watching into their personal lives. I did not like it because it felt like gay people were to be watched and had no connection to the many horrors they faced from a non tolerant society.
We went to the Wannsee House and the German-Russian Museum as a great conclusion for the study abroad and of the war itself. The Wannsee House hosted the Nazi conference in January 1942 that “decided” to mass exterminate the Jewish population. Decided is in quotes because some people believe that it was always the intent of Hitler and certain individuals to kill the Jews while other believe it was decided at this conference after multiple methods such as deportation were no longer an option. The Berlin Senate would not allow the house to become a memorial or exhibition until the 1980s even though Holocaust survivor Joseph Wulf pushed for this initiative starting in 1965. Even if it took them awhile to recognize this house, the German-Russian Museum had no issues with pointing out the German’s faults during the war. This Museum houses the room where the Russians made the Germans sign a second peace treaty after they had already signed first peace treaty with Britain and America to end the war. Another part of the museum is a drawn picture of the Soviets taking over the Reichstag in Berlin. The Reichstag is the government building of Berlin where the Soviets thought Hitler was located but actually it was a converted hospital during the war and when they attacked the building they were in fact attacking a hospital. It was interesting to see that they had a painting in a museum showing this without giving this background knowledge because essentially the act hurt innocents and should not be glorified.
I just want to conclude by thanking everyone who reads these blogs or donates to the study abroad for scholarships. This was an amazing experience. Thank you.