German Stride and Symbolism

Though my time in Germany was disrupted with an overnight hospital stay and some time off due to illness, I learned a lot from the sites I was able to visit. In Berlin I found the Reichstag and the Holocaust Memorial to really speak to the history of the nation in addition to what I learned in my Spring studies at Ohio State. The Third Reich and the rule of Nazism over Germany before and during the Second World War is clearly a dark time in German history. The German initiative to acknowledge and move forward from this history as a nation was exemplified through their historical markers and strivings to change their representation through symbols such as architecture.

We were lucky enough to have a brilliantly thorough and knowledgeable tour guide for our tour of the Reichstag. The decision processes that went into the creation and building of the new German Reichstag and central government buildings after the Second World War and following the Cold War were extensive and complicated. As is also apparent in our own country, politics extend further than power and policy. Political influences went into the entirety of the process of building and adorning the Reichstag, from the location to the seat colors. All decisions were influenced both by partisan pressures and by the persistent goal to move away from anything that ties the new Germany to the old Nazi Germany.

Coming to Germany from Poland, where we visited Auschwitz and learned more about the devastation and demise that came about as a result of Nazi Germany, our perceptions began with bitterness and sadness. I was particularly interested in seeing how the Germans were going to acknowledge their nation’s past actions, as I studied Polish Society Under German Occupation for my specialization on this trip. I found that museums did little justice to this necessary acknowledgement, but I was impressed by how moving the Holocaust Memorial was. It was centrally located with the most important buildings, such as the Reichstag, which symbolized its importance to the history. The Holocaust Memorial represented a determination to keep such a tragedy from happening in the future while it also showed the build-up to genocide and loss that occurred. I however believe that the reality of the genocide that took place in the name of Germany should be approached in a way that better expresses its value as amongst the worst acts of humanity more clearly through museums and other historical reminders .

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