In our final leg of the trip, we travelled to Berlin and spent four days exploring the city and visiting museums and sights that have to do with World War II. Being in Berlin, it was interesting to see how the Germans remember the atrocities the committed during World War II and how they are determined to not let it ever happen again.
Germans have a very different way of remembering World War II as compared to the victorious powers. In the United States, Great Britain, and even France, museums remembering the war have captured German flags, weapons, and uniforms on display for the public to view. While it is clear that the ideology the Nazis practiced was wrong, the displays are very triumphant and dedicated to the spoils of the war. In Germany, it is the exact opposite. Of course, the Germans lost so World War II is not a war they remember fondly and commemorate, but there is a much larger reason why they do not commemorate the war and focus on teaching its lessons instead.
The Nazi ideology was one of pure evil. They targeted groups of people that they viewed as subhuman and tried to systemically exterminate them. The German people to this day are ashamed of how they treated other humans and the atrocities that in many cases their grandparents helped commit. This is seen in how they design their museums. In the Topography of Terror and the Wannsee Conference house, there is a very clear attitude that is demonstrated. The Nazis were evil, and what they wrought can never be allowed to happen again. The museums do not display artifacts or if they do, they are papers, photographs, documents that show how evil they were. There are no helmets, flags, uniforms or tangible things. This is on one hand because Nazi paraphernalia is banned in Germany, but also because Germany is determined to make sure Nazi artifacts are used as shrines and places of remembrance by neo-Nazis.
The museums focus on education, with a heavy emphasis on how sadistic the Nazis were. Panels with information dominate the halls as they explains how widespread Nazi ideals were and how most Germans collaborated with Hitler’s regime. Even in the German resistance museum, there is a sense of how incredibly small resistance groups were. These museums show how easy it was to fall into the Nazi ideology and stress how important it is to remain vigilant and not let the nations fall into that trap ever again.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was a large example of that. The compound did not only consist of a concentration camp, but also a training camp for SS soldiers. After the war, the SS training facility was turned into the Brandenburg Police Academy. The reason the academy is on those grounds is to remember how evil following a group blindly and treating people as subhuman can be. Having the training facility next to the concentration camp serves as a reminder, look what we are capable of, do not let it happen ever again. There is a sign on the ground that states the reason the Academy is next to the concentration camp to promote anti-Nazi ideals.
As well as the Brandenburg Police academy, all German army recruits visit the Von Stauffenburg memorial during training to engrain that it is important to keep strong morals and that it is okay to say no to an order if it is immoral. German schoolchildren have to visit at least three Holocaust sites in order to teach how evil the Nazis were and how it can never again be allowed to happen. The Germans are very adamant about making sure their past is remembered as shameful and somber to ensure they never let Nazism to rise again in Germany.