When Michael and I were sitting in a Dublin Pub together, a day before this trip started, I remember us both saying to each other that an entire month abroad seemed too long. We were worried that we would get worn out. But now, six countries later, a day before we go back home, I’d give anything to be sitting back in that Pub. Truly the time of our lives…so far.
Our last stop was Berlin Germany. We had become professionals abroad. Not even ten-hour bus rides, IBIS hotels, or Jon’s jokes could keep us down. The daily processes at this point had become routines. To me, I felt like this group could take on any country thrown at us. I felt like any country would feel familiar. Yet, keeping with the theme of each place having its own unique interpretations. Berlin too, didn’t feel the same as the others. Until Berlin we had spent the entirety of the trip looking at the war from the point of view of the victors. Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect in regard to what the Germans would say about the war. I didn’t know if they’d blame themselves and feel shame for it or interpret it in a different way. I came to find out that this is the intentionalist vs functionalist perspective and the Germans have been debating it for some time.
With functionalism, the Germans claim that the Holocaust and other subsequent German actions during the war was a by-product of much smaller decisions. Eventually, over time, the consequences of decision making led the Holocaust to happen. Almost like a sequence of dominoes. In contrast, intentionalist claims that the Holocaust was entirely a product of Hitler’s madness and that the German people should not be held accountable for one man’s actions. At the Wannsee House, where the plan of the final solution was said to have been agreed upon by top Nazi officials, Katie explained to us the difference between the two and what exactly she believed. Like Katie, I don’t think that the German interpretation is exactly one form or the other. On one hand, Hitler should hold much of the blame for the acceleration of the hate. But, I don’t think you can say that every single German citizen shouldn’t be held accountable. There were those who followed the cause wholeheartedly, as well as those who wanted nothing to do with Hitler. In reality, citizens had little choice. Therefore, I feel as though the German interpretation is a good mix of intentionalist and functionalist perspectives.
With these thoughts in mind, we also visited the Claus von Stauffenberg Memorial and German resistance museum. But, as the museum would explain there really wasn’t such a thing as German resistance. Claus and his crew ran the most recognizable act of resistance during the war. They were responsible for the attempt on Hitler’s life with a briefcase bomb in the summer of 1944. From there they would have staged a coup and proposed a surrender with the Western Allies. Stauffenberg lost the support of Hitler once he witnessed the hated Hitler had preached in the front. This was a huge feat to accomplish. These resistance fighters gained a lot of publicity, yet the actual size of the German resistance was a couple hundred people. Miniscule in comparison to say the French resistance. Like I said, the German people didn’t really have much of a choice of whether to follow Hitler. I understand how the intentionalist argument gets a lot of light, but that being said, you would expect the resistance to be larger if Hitler is supposed to get all the blame.
Some of our last stops were at the Soviet Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Both of these memorials I found captivating. The Soviet memorial to me illustrated triumph and Humiliation of the Nazis all while commemorating Remembrance of all the Soviets who died taking the city. The Holocaust Memorial illustrated loss by having tight corridors and uneven elevated surfaces. These were supposed to illustrate how easily someone can come in and out of your life. When you walk through the memorial no same person can walk with you the whole way. Both these memorials were necessary inside Berlin. Too many were victims of the Nazis.
So, this is it, we made it. The last dinner with everyone inside the Sony Center was the perfect way to end. As I told Michael, it felt like every one of us had just started to become incredibly close just at the trip’s conclusion. Like I said before I’d give a lot to be sitting back in that Dublin Pub with the mindset I have now. But, I won’t look at it like that. This trip above all else not only created great memories, but gives the opportunities to continue creating them.