I have to admit that one of the best things about my school is all the fascinating places I have visited. From Marrakesh to Seville, from Provence to Capri. After each trip I find myself touching down in England brandishing a new found perspective which I feel only travel can provide. For the last few days myself and 60 others who are taking history GCSE payed a visit to the city of Berlin. The majority of our course this year has been relating to Weimar Germany, Hitler’s rise to power and subsequently The Cold War meaning Berlin was the perfect place to combine all three topics. We were extremely lucky to be joined by two captivating historians: Nigel Jones and Author Roger Moorhouse who wrote Killing Hitler and Berlin at war and is an old pupil of the school.
To begin our excursion we went to a remaining part of the Berlin Wall. We viewed the wall from the soviet side where there were memorials and information relating to those who died trying to escape to West Germany through the so called ‘death zone’. Afterwards we traveled to the center of Berlin to pay our respects to the alternative looking Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which consists of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. The memorial is on a whole other level to the average war memorial as it is more of an experience which you walk through and explore instead of a statue or a plaque.
To let off some steam at the end of a tiring day we watched a basketball match at the O2 world center in Berlin. None of us had any knowledge of German basketball but after a few minutes crowd logic kicked in and we joined the away side chanting ‘RASTA VECHTA’ at the top of our voices.
We visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the second day which proved to be tougher emotionally than anyone could anticipate. There was a certain eerie atmosphere to the site unsurprisingly but I was shocked by quite how much it put a shiver down your spine. I won’t go into the details but it is impossible to comprehend the hardships people living in these concentration camps went through even when you are standing in the same place they stood.
Alongside the concentration camp we also visited Gleis 17 which is where tens of thousands of Jews were deported to concentration and extermination camps all over Europe. There we met an extraordinary woman Susan Loewenthal who was an old girl of the school and who last saw her grandparents at Gleis 17 before they were deported. Susan had the most interesting story to tell about her experience of WW2 and what she knew of her Grandparents. When Susan went into more detail about her time at my school it was discovered she was in the same house as me 65 or so years earlier. The house system is very important at my school causing our meeting with Susan to mean so much more myself and the others in my house because of the person connection we found.
I would use this opportunity to thank Susan for the wonderful thought provoking presentation she gave us, for answering all of our questions and for giving us a experience we can take with us for the rest of our lives.
We also visited Tempelhof Airport that was used as base for the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and to finish a heavy day we went up the Bundestag looking over the whole of Berlin.
The third day consisted mainly of museums and a lot of walking but was definitely worth the energy! To start with we were given a tour around an underground bunker which looked like the inside of a horror movie or a gruesome video game. Afterwards we walked up the Flak Tower which was built during WW2 as an air raid shelter. The tower it’s self had some really thought provoking graffiti of which there are photos below. As well as that there was an amazing view which I could have stayed an taken pictures of for hours.
Our final day consisted of visiting the Resistance Museum which is on the on the sight where those involved in the Valkyrie plot were shot. We were fortunate to have Roger with us when we went round the museum as he is a valued expert on the resistance towards the Nazis having written the well known book ‘Killing Hitler‘ in 2006.
To end the trip we went up the KollHoff tower in Potsdamer Platz where we were greeted by the most magnificent view of central Berlin.
All of this incredible historical experience would not have been possible without the organisation of Mr Rees who had been planning the trip for 14 months before hand. Not only will this trip help me with my GCSE History but I have gained a wider contextual knowledge and perspective of modern History.
I took photos at basically every opportunity when we were visiting all the different places so I have selected my favorites to share with you.
Thank you for reading such a lengthy post…more to come in the next few days!
Bethany Jane x x