Moving Forward

We arrived in Germany on a Thursday. The bus ride from Krakow to Berlin felt like a lifetime. Immediately after arrival we rushed to the Reichstag for a guided tour. The Reichstag is their Parliament building. I was really impressed with the history behind the building. The Reichstag’s interior is beautiful, with floor to ceiling windows. During World War II, the building was heavily damaged and the walls were vandalized by Soviet soldiers as they took Berlin in 1945.
Soviet soldiers signed their names and short phrases on the walls of the building. The graffiti, written in Cyrillic, was uncovered in 1960 when architect Sir Norman Foster converted the building to house the new parliamentary chamber of the Bundestag. Foster decided to persevere parts of these walls and incorporate them into the new building.
As you walk along the streets in Berlin you may notice cobblestone-size concrete cubes with a brass plate inscribed with names and dates. These brass plates are called stolpersteine, or “stumbling blocks”. These “stumbling blocks” remember victims of Nazi extermination or persecution. The stolperstein project, which is still ongoing, began in 1992 by artist Gunter Demning. The purpose of this project is to remember each individual person at the last place of work or residency before they fell victim to the Nazi regime. As of 31 January 2017, over 56,000 stumbling stones have been installed in twenty-two countries. The majority of of the stumbling stones commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The stolperstein project is the world’s largest decentralized memorial.
As our time in Berlin came to an end, one of our last days was spent visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I thought the memorial was a very artistic and modern way for Germany to honor the victims of the Holocaust. The memorial consists of concrete steles in various sizes. I appreciate that the meaning behind the memorial is not straight forward – it’s very thought provoking. As you walk through, you are forced to look up. It is almost like it is acknowledging the horrors of their past and those innocents who lost their lives, but also saying that all there is to do now is to ask for forgiveness, repent and look toward the future. As a whole Germany has taken many strides in acknowledging their wrong doings. Although there is still work to be done, they are on the right path to reconcile their past.

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