Germany’s Atonement and France’s Blind Spots

By the end of our time in Berlin, I couldn’t handle the huge paragraphs of text that German museums presented me at every turn. I often thought that several museums would be more effective with their information placards printed and bound in a book rather than hanging on walls. Why do the Germans dote upon documents and details? Why don’t the French or British?

It’s hard to be peppy in Germany when museums are filled with chilling thoughts instead of glowing triumphs. The Topography of Terror museum, for example, exhibits the below photo of Kurt Meyer, commander of the 12th SS Panzer Division and supervisor of war crimes in Normandy, celebrating at a reunion for Waffen-SS soldiers. Like many SS men convicted by West Germany and the Allies, Meyer’s sentence got his sentence commuted. He was free by 1954.

Kurt Meyer (front left), war criminal, celebrates with other former members of the Waffen-SS in July 1957. The Topography of Terror museum prominently displays this photo along others of Nazis who “got away with it.”

The French deal with war criminals in their museums, but not with their Meyer equivalents. Moreover, they almost never mention their own men who participated in the Holocaust (save Laval), let alone draw attention to the leniency that the Republic showed the perpetrators. Instead, they choose to overstate the role of the Résistance in liberating France, despite the group being militarily irrelevant for most of the war. Funnily enough, the Deutsches Historisches Museum and Topography of Terror exhibit had greater documentation of French collaboration with the Nazi occupation than did the French themselves. Recent French media, like the film La Rafle (an account of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup in Paris), have begun to deal with the realities and complexities of resistance and collaboration, but most museums lag behind.

In this candid, a French gendarme confers with an SS officer. Source: not a French museum, but the Wannsee House, in Potsdam. The French prefer to devote space to the Maquis of the Resistance.

The French also have a messy totalitarian legacy in Pétain, dictator of the “French State” in World War II, but they don’t have Germany’s neo-Nazi/Holocaust-denier problem. Germany has volunteered its leadership in combatting the bad history of those above plus others who perpetuate myths like the “clean Wehrmacht.” That added anti-Nazi goal can alone explain why the nation’s museums stick so closely to documents: it’s hard for an apologist to argue with a huge body of primary sources. Like the Poles at Auschwitz, the Germans seek to warn the world far more than entertain: the Deutsches Historisches Museum spends as much space on the rise of Nazism as it does on its effects of the war.

“Officers of Tomorrow.” The Germans do not point at old propaganda with glee, as many French may with old signs for Free France, but with abjection. One might remember that boys were indoctrinated in the Hitler Youth so that they would die for the state by the millions. The most glee propaganda in the German museums is also the most chilling.

The Wannsee House’s exhibit ends with a series of quotes from Holocaust survivors and their families. One stuck with me, from Joseph Wulf: “I have published 18 books here about the Third Reich, but this had no impact. You can publish things for the Germans until you’re blue in the face, there may be the most democratic government in Bonn, but the mass murderers wander about freely, have their little houses and grow flowers.” Mr. Wulf, perhaps not enough Germans had learned the lessons of the National Socialist dictatorship by the 1960s, but today, the Germans go to the ends of the earth to disprove Holocaust-deniers and apologists with exhaustive and unflinching documentation.

The German Parliament Building, 1933 to Now

The Reichstag building from the front

Touring Germany’s Bundestag was one of my favorite parts our trip to Berlin.  As a political science and history double major, I was thrilled to learn about the story of the building itself during World War II and the Cold War in addition to current parliamentary tensions.  The building itself was key to the Nazis’ rise to power in the 1930s.  As the Nazis gained seats in the Reichstag (the name for the German parliament at the time), they fought for absolute power, led by Adolph Hitler, who had been appointed chancellor in January 1933.  The Reichstag building caught fire in February, and the Nazis blamed their political opponents for the destruction.

The Reichstag building

They quickly used this as an excuse to declare a military state of emergency and imprison or exile all of the legitimate threats to their political power in the Reichstag. This was the beginning of the decline of German democracy and of Hitler’s tyrannical rule in Germany.



The mirrored cone as seen from the dome

The current state of the Reichstag building is less depressing than this history might suggest.  The Bundestag (the current name for German parliament) meets in the large central room, which is open to visitors and is apparently the most visited parliamentary meeting space in the world.  The building’s renovated architecture is attractive and environmentally friendly.  The ceiling in the parliament room is made of glass, and there is a mirrored cone descending from the dome above the Bundestag’s meeting room that brings sunlight down into the space, reducing electric lighting needs.  We got to tour the massive glass dome on top of the building, which provided for excellent views of the city and a better appreciation for Germany’s political past, as it was filled with an exhibit on the history of the Reichstag building.

The view from one part of the ceiling dome








The Bundestag’s meeting room – the chairs are “Bundestag bl

Our tour guide was kind enough to tell us about the current state of affairs in the Bundestag, which had just shifted the day before due to the elections that weekend.  Across Europe and in Germany in particular, elections are revealing that people want political representation that is further from the middle of the political spectrum than in recent years.  The far right and left-wing parties are gaining more seats than they have historically, which is evidence of how quickly people have forgotten the detrimental impacts of Nazi and Soviet rule in Germany.  In studying politics, I’ve learned that modern democratic governments tend to sway from right to left, from centrist to extreme, as people tend to dislike whatever representation they have and desire change.  While I do not have the solution to this problem, I do think that it is important to remember the lessons of history before the political pendulum swings too far in any one direction and derails democracy as we know it.

The Bundestag logo – a smiling eagle

Coming to Terms with the Past

Looking toward the lake

When we arrived at Wannsee, a longtime “getaway lake” for Berliners, I was immediately taken back by how familiar it looked to my ocean-side hometown.  Walking along the lake’s edge to hear water gently lapping against the dock, boats clinking against pylons, birds chirping, and a small outboard motor putting across the flat water was reminiscent of Merrick, New York.  The place was utterly peaceful it was.  Turning away from the lake, I was greeted by a beautiful villa surrounded by bright pink flowers.

It was at this seemingly peaceful location, however, that some of the most sinister documents in human history were created at the Wannsee Conference.  On January 20th, 1942, the 90-minute meeting took place, led by Reinhard Heydrich, to define the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Question” of how to annihilate the Jews.  This conference defined “Jewishness” and what it means to be a “mixed blood” German (someone who had one Aryan and one Jewish parent or grandparent, for example), the Jewish demographic within different occupied countries, and how easily those Jewish populations could be dissolved.  Most disturbingly, however, was the ambiguity behind how this persecution would be carried out.  The documents do not mention the methods for which the “solution” was to be carried out, but do state that mass-deportations to “‘so-called’ ghettos”

The house on the hill

should be carried out at once in the occupied territories so as not to let the local populations become “apprehensive.”

The Wannsee Conference Building is today a memorial and museum.  Within its walls are a chronological display and explanation of anti-Semitism in Germany dating back to the 18th century as well information on the horrible atrocities and the people who committed them throughout the war.  The most striking part of the display, however, is the meticulous use of documents, images, and recordings from the Nazi-era to produce a numb and strictly fact-based museum.  In fact, the only touch of a personal narrative was through the explanation of three Jewish families’ stories throughout this period, from Kristallnacht to capitulation.

The displays within this museum and others in Germany are reminiscent of an idea that I have studied in previous classes known as Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or “coming to terms with the past.”  The process of overcoming guilt with the war is one that Germany has been forced to face.  They are stewards to their own history – a national shame that affects the world – and have come leaps and bounds in recognizing the horrible acts of Nazi Germany.  Whereas in the past the Nazi atrocities were simply not talked about, they are now displayed to the most minute detail.  In fact, it is even illegal in Germany to deny that the Holocaust happened.

These museums also prove that the German narrative of the war has no room for error.  No story can be embellished and no experience undermined.  In other nations, museum displays presented the historical narrative quite differently.  In Paris, France, at the Musée de l’Armée, the war was painted like a story with colorful verbiage inflating several events to mask the blow of defeat.  When describing the Battle of France in 1940, the museum said that, “The Maginot Line, even encircled, resisted at every attack and did not capitulate.”  Unlike in France, the Germans cannot inflate their war narrative and this shows in the fact that it is displayed in a very impersonal and emotionless manner.  Military heroes are few and far between, and the atrocities that were committed can only be depicted as rote fact.

Looking toward Wannsee


Remembering the Holocaust: An International Responsibility

Travelling through three different countries in two weeks required a lot of grit and stamina, but it also gave me the opportunity to compare a few different cities, modes of transportation, and cultures.  It allowed me to view and compare many different museums as well, and I particularly focused on the strategies different nations used to recount the horrors of the Holocaust during WWII.  The British Imperial War Museum, the Caen Memorial Museum in France, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland each addressed the tragic history in slightly different ways depending on their proximity to the events and their perceived audience.

The Imperial War Museum offered the English perspective on the events of World War II and included a section on the Holocaust that was surprisingly larger than any other portion of the museum. This museum reminded me of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in that it provided considerable background about German history and Hitler’s rise to power before describing the different groups who were persecuted over time and the terrible fates these groups met either in civil society or  Nazi camps.  The material was engaging and offered a general idea of the experience of the victims, but the museum was clearly designed for people who had no background in studying the Holocaust and focused less on individual towns and people than on big picture statistics and ideas.

The French exhibit on the Holocaust in the Caen Memorial Museum was more specific and personalized than the exhibit in England was.  It offered less general background information and told many individual stories instead, making the history feel closer to home.  This is likely because the curators assumed prior knowledge of the Holocaust from the museum’s visitors.  France was occupied by the Nazis during the war, and the population was affected by deportations firsthand – presumably this history is taught to new generations in schools and through family memories.  The exhibit is also within the larger WWII exhibit in the museum, rather than having its own unique section, implying that France remembers the Holocaust as an integral part of the  war, as opposed to a separate but parallel part of world history.  This museum was more emotional than the British museum  because it was more personalized, and it still included a lot of important information about different people who were brutalized and the various methods the Nazis used in their war for “racial purity.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum solely revolved around the evils that occurred at the infamous death camp, and while this museum’s focus was incredibly narrow, it was by far the most heartbreaking.  Poland sponsored this state museum to allow visitors to get a glimpse into the terrible conditions that people were forced to live and work under in the concentration camp.  We were able to see where over one million people lived, worked and were killed, whether passively,  from starvation or illness for example, or actively, by torture, gassing, hanging, or any number of other cruel and unusual methods.  Walking through Auschwitz and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the earth itself felt calm, and I could not reconcile how the quiet area once held embodiment of human misery and evil.

The panels and tour guide were informative about the events that had occurred there, but the energy of the place, and especially the exhibits that had been set up housing the detritus left behind after the evacuation of the camp, were more telling of what had happened than any words could ever be.  A volume of suitcases, children’s clothing, prayer shawls, hygiene products, crutches and artificial limbs, and even human hair were displayed throughout the old barracks in Auschwitz I. These exhibits all spoke to the magnitude of  barbarity at Auschwitz and the sheer waste of life.

Seeing just a fraction of the  worldly possessions a few victims left behind helped me imagine the camp’s enormity.   What would have happened if those people had lived and had children? What if everyone had been allowed to work, rather than most people being systematically killed upon arrival?  So many preferable different outcomes spiraled through my head, and this was just one camp.  What about the other camps, and the ghettos, and the villages overrun by Nazis?  The mix of anger and despair and hopelessness I felt was almost unbearable, and while this museum had the  fewest words dedicated to explaining the details of the Holocaust, the remains of the abandoned camp system were enough to make me understand and loath the truth of the mass murder more than I ever had before.

Each museum was key in helping its respective audience better understand the terrible truth of the Holocaust.  Moving closer to the largest site of mass murder with each new city allowed me to better understand how the international community differs in its attempts to guarantee remembrance of the Holocaust.  It is essential to ensure that people never forget what happened to the Nazis targets of cruelty, for those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it as they say, and museums like the ones we visited help prevent people from denying or downplaying the traumatic events of the Holocaust.

Insight into the Epitaph

Meandering through the national memorials of fallen soldiers from the Soviet Union, Germany, and America, I noticed that each country’s displays of mourning were fundamentally different in grandeur. Acting as a representation of the nation’s status at war’s end, the gravesites told a deeper story than a first glance allows.

The American site sits on the Normandy coast. Alongside the memorial is the beach where so many Americans initiated the fateful invasion of Europe. Crashing waves and chirping birds fill the air. With the bright marble gravestones and perfectly kept grass, I got the sense that in the wake of tragedy, America was proud of its contribution. Each deceased soldier also rested in a plot of their own, showing an appreciation for the sacrifices of the individual.

A different story emerged when entering the Soviet memorial in Berlin. The landscape is expansive. A vast swath of grass leads to the statue of a Soviet soldier holding a child in one hand and a sword in the other. Pinned underneath the sword is a Nazi swastika, crushed into several pieces. The statue stands hundreds of feet tall and seems more like a monument to an omnipotent nation in a dystopian movie rather than a memorial to perished troops. So imposing and grandiose is the monument that it totally distracted me from the fact that thousands of Soviet soldiers were buried on-site. I got the sense that I was not supposed to leave remembering the countless Soviet deaths, but instead the USSR’s brazen defeat of Nazi Germany. Really, just as in the war, consideration of individual Soviet lives seemed to be secondary to the maintenance of a titanic national image.

Finally, the memorial to German soldiers told a story of shame. Beneath each faded, jagged gravestone lay two or more soldiers. At the center of the site is a large mound, wherein hundreds more soldiers are buried. The surrounding scenery is bare; trees and bushes scatter the site in haphazard formation. The cemetery is devoid of flourish and commemorative depth, demonstrating Germany’s willingness to shamefully swallow its losses.

Each national memorial was designed to tell a particular story— a story of vanquish or victory. Even an untrained eye can notice the differences of each site, but having an understanding of history allowed me to appreciate the deeper meaning of these differences.

Interpretations from I to Us

By Matthew Bonner

We arrived in Berlin, Germany on May 24th after a day-long charter bus ride from Krakow. While in Berlin, we visited numerous museums, but two that stood out the most were the Topography of Terror and German Resistance Memorial Center. The Topography of Terror is located on the site of the previous SS and Gestapo headquarters. The museum is at a cross section of Berlin’s history, as a portion of the Berlin Wall is still standing in the complex along with recently excavated SS underground torture chambers. The German Resistance Memorial Center is a museum dedicated to German resistance in all forms. The center is located on the site where members of the failed July 20 plot that attempted to assassinate Hitler were executed.

Both museums are examples of the theme we discussed in class of the German struggle with the reality of mass support for the Nazis. The museums are unique compared to other countries’ museums because they focus on the individual, rather than the collective. The Topography of Terror is one of the only museums that focused on the perpetrators, rather than the victims, of Nazi persecution. The exhibits highlight how individual German Nazis were supporters of the Third Reich’s actions. One of the most shocking and disturbing takeaways from the museum was the human element of perpetrators, as a photo revealed SS men and women having a fun time on a sunny afternoon only a short distance away from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Topography of Terror exhibit depicting SS men and women at a retreat 30 km south of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In the German Resistance Memorial Center the focus was again on the individual, taking us through different assassination attempts and resistance by Christian Churches, networks of Communists, and Social Democrat groups. Though it is overwhelming to read about all the different resistance movements and individuals active in opposing the Hitler regime, the museum does not disguise that a majority of Germans supported the Nazi Party and that there was never an effective large scale resistance movement mobilized. The two museums in Germany both highlight individual stories and actions in an attempt to come to terms with the actions of a whole country and “the resistance that never was”.

A wall showcasing the individuals behind resistance efforts at the German Resistance Memorial Center.

This depiction and focus on the individual from Germany is in direct contrast to the museums we visited in Krakow, Poland. Poland largely interprets the war and its aftermath as a claim to national innocence and focused on how the war affected the unified people of Poland. Specifically, the Schindler Museum walked us through the war’s impact on both Poland and the city of Krakow. We were guided by a tour guide from Krakow, who added an extra level of insight through her Polish perspective. For example, she constantly mentioned how the war was a war against all Poles and described how Jews had been assimilated into Polish society for centuries. In addition, one of her main themes throughout the tour was that there are always both good and bad people in a society as a way to explain many of the atrocities that occurred in the country under occupation. In the museum, the exhibits largely focused on the Polish people, instead of individuals and specific populations. Oskar Schindler himself was only allotted two rooms in the museum to describe his contribution, with the focus instead on the Polish experience during the war as one collective memory.

Recreation of Oskar Schindler’s office where he worked to save 1,200 Jews from concentration camps.

Both the individual and collective interpretations can be harmful for a society post-war. Many German museums highlight the individual in an attempt to showcase the heroes during a horrible time in its history. However, other museums vitally depict how the German people were largely complicit in the Nazi rise to power. In contrast, Poland focuses on the collective – often washing out individual stories – with the claim that the war was terrible for everyone. This collective memory fails to acknowledge the stories of specific populations in Poland, such as Jews, that had drastically different experiences in the war. Ultimately, this duality is critical to understand because the best way to come to terms with the war is through a combination of both the individual and collective perspectives. History and people are not clearly defined as good and bad or black and white, and only through a comprehensive and inclusive look at the past can we begin to fully understand World War II and its impact.

Selective Exposure

As I gazed out at the entirety of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, two dominant emotions emerged: desperation and suffering. These sensations can characterize Poland’s national experience throughout much of the 20th century. Most Poles maintained a defying temperament throughout the war, operating one of the largest organized resistance movements of World War II.

Poland has suffered like few nations have in recent memory. When World War I began, the German, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Empires still ruled over Poland after partitioning it in the late 18th century. Much of the fighting in the Eastern Front occurred in Polish territory, ravaging the land and unleashing disease and hunger. The Russian and German armies looted and destroyed Polish homes and businesses and deported hundreds of thousands of civilians to labor camps. Over one million Poles died during the First World War. Sadly, worse suffering was yet to come.

Poland regained its independence following World War I and began to rebuild itself during the inter-war period. It only had a brief twenty years, however, before Hitler and Nazi Germany invaded in September 1939. The Third Reich took the Western half of Poland while the Soviet Union laid claim to the Eastern half. The Eastern Front of World War II was located yet again in Poland when Germany and the Soviet Union ended their armistice. Besides the destruction that a combat theater provides, Poland was the site of perhaps the most reprehensible atrocities humanity has ever witnessed. The Nazi series of extermination camps situated on Polish lands, combined with the wanton violence of the Einsatzgruppen, resulted in mass murder on a scale the world had never seen. The Nazis brutally and senselessly killed millions of Poles, both Jews and non-Jews, viewing them as subhuman. As the Soviet Union pushed back starting in 1943, destruction continued. Over six million Poles perished during World War II – nearly one-fifth of its entire population; over 90% of these deaths were non-military.

After the Second World War, Poland, despite all of its suffering, did not regain its independence. The Soviet Union continued to imprison, deport, and execute Poles as they established a Communist government that joined their bloc of nations. Today the Polish claim national innocence during the Second World War, maintaining that they played no part in the Holocaust or other tragedies. That is simply not true, as there are examples of Polish groups murdering and maiming Jews. While Poland should take responsibility and acknowledge their actions, it is easy for us to urge them to do so. Americans’ knowledge of Polish history is very limited, and we are privileged in having not experienced the unspeakable tragedies the Polish endured throughout the 20th century. We tend to overlook the courage and resiliency of the Poles and their resistance movements and fail to recognize their suffering through our own biased lens.

Two Narratives, One History

The German narrative presented at the German Historical Museum is detached in comparison to the German-Russian Museum which pushed a triumphant narritve. The German Historical Museum was not being deceptive but lacked a definitive narrative. The museum presented plenty of facts but failed to tie together the uniqueness of the Nazi’s. The German Historical Museum was full of new information for me, particularly in the areas of the Weimar Republic and the political atmosphere leading up to the war. The depth of information almost overwhelmed me with so much text and visual evidence. World War Two is presented as a piece of a larger conflict that began in 1914. World War One, the Interwar period and World War Two are taken as a single piece of history. The method shows how the rise of Hitler, the concentration and death camps and ultimately the extermination of millions occurs. The German narrative gets across how normal people can be twisted and manipulated into evil. In certain ways though this narrative scrutinizes the Allied moral position in regard to strategic bombing and Soviet atrocities. The museum expressed how the Nuremburg trails were a “victors justice” and if the same standards were applied fairly Allied commanders would be war criminals.


The Soviet narrative within Berlin portrays the magnificent victory achieved by the Soviet Union against fascism. We went to see two Soviet monuments, both of which were huge, blunt and glorious. The Soviets felt very highly of themselves, as we stood beneath a Soviet soldier, wielding a sword, holding a German child and crushing a swastika, this conquering tone became apparent.

The Soviets killed the vast majority of German soldiers and absorbed the full might of the German military. The size of the Eastern Front is from Boston to Miami in the United States. Millions upon millions of soldiers fought in single battles, waging a war of annihilation against each other. War in the west was more civilized if you could ever say that about war, yet in the east war was unhinged. The Soviets overcame the loss of 28 million people, crushed the Wehrmacht and seized Berlin. The German-Russian museum was lighter when it came to Soviet glory but showed a narrative of Nazi atrocities and Soviet victories. Unlike western museums, this museum gave the Soviets their deserved place. The museum focused on the east and mentioned a few times the western governments and their actions. The war in reality was this way, with the bulk of German forces and atrocities concentrated in the east. Western history has been blinded by political motives to revise the way World War Two was won in Europe.

Acknowledging the Past and Shouldering the Guilt

The Wannsee House.

Throughout the Spring semester and this three-week study tour, I have been exposed to the many Nazi atrocities committed during World War II—from pictures in museums to walking through Auschwitz itself. Arriving in the last country, Germany, I was unsure of how the losing country would portray their experience of the war. Would they shoulder their guilt in the persecution of the Jews, a topic the other countries so thoroughly discussed in their museums? Looking back, I would say that yes, the Germans did so in an extremely factual manner. However, I was particularly struck by their discussion of ghettos at the Wannsee House.

Ghettos, set up to house Jews and cut them off from society, were a devastating element of the Nazi persecution of Jewish people. The “Establishing the Ghettos” display recognized the wrongdoings of the Germans, but it was also the only display I encountered that acknowledged the role of Jewish Councils within the ghettos. It aligned well with a source we read in class in that it highlighted the role of the Councils while still placing the blame on the Germans themselves. It thoroughly reiterated that the awful choices the councilmen had to make were done under German threat of death or punishment. This display, which did not criticize these councilmen for whatever role they played in the death of their fellow Jews, seemed to me a recognition of the Nazis’ wrong-doing.

I was able to learn about a lot more at the Wannsee House than just the ghettos, however. In fact, the Wannsee House showed in-depth the anti-Semitism that was prevalent throughout Germany before Hitler took power, a topic we discussed only briefly during the semester. The first section of the house emphasized how multi-faceted this anti-Semitism was by using both a large amount of text and images of German propaganda. Its in-depth discussion of the dehumanization of Jews in pre-war Germany provides important context to the Jewish experience during the war. Overall, I think the Wannsee House did a thorough job in acknowledging the German role in Jewish persecution prior to and throughout the war.


View From the Top

As I looked down from a small green hill in Normandy, I tried to feel something, anything. Below me, small brown rectangular headstones laid flat on the ground, with a short iron cross presiding over the remains of every five or six bodies. It did not look like a graveyard. The plots were too small, the graves lacked flowers, and the people visiting did not seem to care about remaining quiet. You see, the green hill that I peered down from, as I was later informed, was a mass grave of fallen Nazi soldiers at the German cemetery in Normandy. Even though Dr. Steigerwald put the visit on the syllabus, I never fully believed we would go there; the very concept of such a place didn’t seem real to me. After all, why would the French maintain a memorial to the Nazi invaders, given the extent of their crimes both inside and outside of France?

The view from the top of Treptower Park, the Soviet memorial and cemetery in Berlin, inspired similar feelings of confusion within me. From the top of another hill, I felt this space to be almost infinite in its grandiosity and power. There were no individual graves; the designers instead built large friezes of heroic Soviet actions, replete with quotes from Joseph Stalin. Flanked by imposing, perfected statues on either side of the entrance and on top of the mound, the celebration of Soviet contributions was on full display. Yet I could not fully be swept up into the narrative the memorial tried to create. I could not stop thinking about how Dr. Breyfogle told us that people colloquially refer to the monument as the “Tomb of the Unknown Rapist,” because of the mass rapes committed by the Red Army. Again, we have a population with memories of an invading force brutalizing them. What purpose does maintaining such a memorial have?

Memorials, it seems, serve other purposes besides honoring the dead. At the German cemetery, Dr. Steigerwald explained that the memorial came to be as a result of careful negotiations with West Germany, and they meant it as a step towards healing the wounds left from the past decades of Franco-German hostilities. The Soviets, on the other hand, built their own memorial in occupied East Berlin to honor their own dead, without whom we could not have won the Second World War. As we talked about in class, the Soviet contribution of 25-27 million lives often goes unnoticed by Americans and the other Allies. In this case, the humble existence of the German cemetery and the opulence of the Soviet cemetery makes sense – both memorials have an underlying purpose beyond what can be initially seen. Yet as I stood at the tops of each and struggled with how to feel in those moments, I realized that whether or not they actually work to overcome such horrific events is another story entirely.