April 7 – Day 2 Berlin

LAB said…
April 7, 2010

Our morning began with Shalmi Barmore explaining about the concept of identity and personal narratives. How people describe themselves tells a lot about how they view not only themselves, but also their view of history. Cities, like Berlin, a city that lives with its history,also grapples with their ghosts.

Travelling to the Wannsee

Villa on this gorgeous sunny morning, Olaf talked about the city of West Berlin and the beautiful area of homes near Wannsee lake. The meeting at Wannsee, which occurred January 20, 1942, consisted of Nazi bureaucrats who had been given the task of figuring out how to carry out the Final Solution. Again the paradox presents itself: In this beautiful setting, with a sunny lake just outside the floor to ceiling windows, top bureaucrats of the German government looked at Eichmann’s typed list of the number of Jews in countries already occupied by Germany, and the countries that Germany planned to concur. These bureaucrats figured out the practical side of how to carry out the plan concocted by the Nazi officials.

From Wannsee, we travelled to the Grunewald train station, in a beautiful section of Berlin where big, gorgeous houses look out over the tracks where trains deported thousands of Berlin’s Jews. We walked along this memorial that lists the day, month and year as well as the ghetto or camp where the Jews were deported, in plain sight from the windows of the beautiful houses near the tracks.

From there, we went to the Bavarian quarter of Berlin, a neighborhood where many Jews lived before the Nazi deportations began. Throughout the streets of this neighborhood, signs are posted which depict images and anti-Jewish legislation which show how the rights of Jews were gradually taken away. Along one street, an artist’s mural depicts life in the Bavarian quarter during the late 19th century. Here we discussed the artist’s interpretation of a man who is Jewish, and whether our interpretations of the picture is colored by our knowledge of anti-Jewish propaganda, or if the picture truly reflects the artist’s sentiments.

31 comments

  1. I just wanted the group to know that I am curious about how your trip is going, what you have found that especially moved you, and to let you know that I am thinking of you as you see firsthand some of the horrors of the Holocaust. I applaud you for your courage to examine this dreadful episode and for your commitment to make a difference in the world by your educating others about the Holocaust and by speaking out against genocide wherever it still exists.

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  2. Tuesday, April 6After our 8 to 10 hour flights, we spent our first day with our guide, Olaf, touring the city of Berlin. As we stood in front of the Reichstag building, our Israeli guide, Shalmi Barmore, talked to us about the paradox of Berlin, a city with a rich tradition of literature, music, art, and architecture. A city where the history of the Holocaust is rooted. We walked from there to the Brandenburg gate, and the short distance to the Holocaust Memorial, right here in the center of the city. Students walked through the huge blocks and toured the underground museum, located in the heart of the Nazi regime, where Hitler is said to have taken his life. From there we toured the New Synagogue of Berlin, built in the late 19th century in the style of a grand European cathedral. The gold dome has been restored, and the bombed building is now a museum dedicated to telling the story of the Jews of Berlin and their lives before the Holocaust. After writing in their journals, after being awake 36 hours, students shared their reactions with each other. As we continue our journey, we will be posting student reactions and updating our followers on our incredible journey.We are off this morning to the Wannsee House, the Bavarian Quarter, Grunewald and several other memorials in Berlin.

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  3. April 7, 2010Our morning began with Shalmi Barmore explaining about the concept of identity and personal narratives. How people describe themselves tells a lot about how they view not only themselves, but also their view of history. Cities, like Berlin, a city that lives with its history,also grapples with their ghosts.Travelling to the WannseeVilla on this gorgeous sunny morning, Olaf talked about the city of West Berlin and the beautiful area of homes near Wannsee lake. The meeting at Wannsee, which occurred January 20, 1942, consisted of Nazi bureaucrats who had been given the task of figuring out how to carry out the Final Solution. Again the paradox presents itself: In this beautiful setting, with a sunny lake just outside the floor to ceiling windows, top bureaucrats of the German government looked at Eichmann's typed list of the number of Jews in countries already occupied by Germany, and the countries that Germany planned to concur. These bureaucrats figured out the practical side of how to carry out the plan concocted by the Nazi officials.From Wannsee, we travelled to the Grunewald train station, in a beautiful section of Berlin where big, gorgeous houses look out over the tracks where trains deported thousands of Berlin's Jews. We walked along this memorial that lists the day, month and year as well as the ghetto or camp where the Jews were deported, in plain sight from the windows of the beautiful houses near the tracks.From there, we went to the Bavarian quarter of Berlin, a neighborhood where many Jews lived before the Nazi deportations began. Throughout the streets of this neighborhood, signs are posted which depict images and anti-Jewish legislation which show how the rights of Jews were gradually taken away. Along one street, an artist's mural depicts life in the Bavarian quarter during the late 19th century. Here we discussed the artist's interpretation of a man who is Jewish, and whether our interpretations of the picture is colored by our knowledge of anti-Jewish propaganda, or if the picture truly reflects the artist's sentiments.

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  4. Today at the Wannsee Conference room, Mr. Barmore made an interesting point in regard to the bureaucrats who made the laws during the Holocaust under the Nazi regime. When he mentioned that the bureaucrats always answered the \”how\” questions and not the \”why,\” I wondered why. Instantly, a reflection back to a previous English class replayed in my mind as Mr. Barmore continued to enlighten us with information. The connection was to the Trancendentalist essay, \”Civil Disobedience.\” It satirizes government institutions, criticizing the natural human nature of people. It reminds us that government only exists because we say so. As a result, government is a product of this reality and society created by us. It is in fact a false reality, a materialistic reality, a greedy reality, and a power hungry reality that builds these robotic creatures. The Nazi regime was programmed and wired to function exactly as those following, herding sheep that contribute no response at all.

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  5. I think bureaucrats tend to figure out the how instead of the why because that is their job–fixing things is their job. When presented with a job, they don't ask questions because they have gotten used to the idea they have to figure something out without asking questions. I connected to this because my job over the summer was working with a contractor and in the beginning of the job I was always asking questions constantly about how to do things and how different machines worked. But at the end of the summer, when my job was over, I could figure everything out for myself. I no longer had to ask the question why because I had grown accustomed to what I was doing. Like the bureaucrats, when they first started their jobs, they probably asked a lot of question because they were not used to the atmosphere they were in. By the time of the Wannsee Conference, they no longer asked the question why because they were more part of the machine.

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  6. Not only do you have my deepest thanks for going, but also for sending us this blog. You see my mother, lost her entire family in the Holocaust in Belarus and we have no way to find out where or when they were annihilated. Sad to say Genocide doesn't end. So that you must now fight to see that \”Never Again\” is a reality.Florette Lynn

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  7. The Villa in West Berlin that you guys went to sounds really nice. You would never think that in a beautiful area like that there would be people figuring out the Final Solution.

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  8. It must have been sad to see the signs that showed the rights of Jewish people being taken away. I also want to go on this trip in my senior year. It would be a life changing experience.

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  9. The anti-Jewish signs in the Bavarian quarter must have been shocking to see. I also can't imagine what it was like to walk through the streets where Jews once lived before the deportations of the Nazis.

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  10. Being able to walk and really interact with a place which holds so much history and emotion sounds like a very eye-opening experience. To see places that look beautiful and discover that events such as the planning of the actions the Nazis were going to take to accomplish their overall horrible goals is slightly hard to picture. A lot of thoughts probably were going through everybody's minds when you visited both the villa and the town.

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  11. It is great that you had the opportunity to visit these places. This increases our knowledge and it is important to respect the Jews. I love the pictures also.

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  12. It freaks me out that Berlin is a city that has to grapple with ghosts. it must have been a great honor to hear from all these people about Berlin and the history it holds and an even better experience to visit the Grunewald train station.

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  13. It's amazing that everything seemed so peaceful and bright on the day the Germans were deciding which countries to concur. Also, just walking through the streets where the Jews lived must have been just heartbreaking, since they went from normal homes to such terror in a matter of days.

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  14. It's hard to picture the beautiful scenery just overlooking the tracks where trains deported thousands of Jews. I imagined the scene to be grimmer, even though it took place many years ago.

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  15. You really took amazing photos! And walking along the same street as deported Jews must be weird when years ago, they were experiencing so much fear and agony during those days. I hope you guys had fun in Berlin.

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  16. It is amazing that the records of deportation have been kept to this day. It is mentioned that the Villa is so beautiful and that it is a paradox because of the horrible things that occurred there. It is important that the Villa is not just admired for its beauty, but that those who were killed as a result of the planning that happened there are remembered.

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  17. I can't believe that there were normal towns like these surrounding the trains where the Jews were deported. I don't know how normal civilization could have still been going on while millions of Jews were killed in concentration camps all throughout Europe. It must have been an incredible experience to stand in the same spot where these horrific events took place.

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  18. The irony of it all is just so disturbing, how such horrible death sentences could be pronounced in such beautiful and peaceful nature. It must have been very moving to see the anti-Jewish legislation and murals on the walls in the streets of the Bavarian quarter of Berlin. I know it would have been very upsetting for me to see. I also couldn't imagine living in a home that had a clear and perfect view of the inscriptions describing the many deportations from the Grunewald train station. To look out my windows and see that every morning would just be very depressing and almost chilling to me.

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  19. Simon Wiesenthal said, \”For your benefit, learn from our tragedy. It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews. It can also be other people.\” Learning this makes \”never again\” a possibility.

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  20. After recently reading the book Night, I can only imagine how much of an eerie setting this places must have after all the pain and suffering that took place during the Nazi regime. Elie Wiesel once lived in a ghetto similar to ones you have seen this day and it gives me chills thinking about how I would feel standing and looking at this ghettos. The experience you guys are having is truly incredible.

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  21. The experience must have been a great and memorable one. Being able to see the towns and walk on the same territory where the innocent Jews once lived, must have been a shocking feeling. It's hard to imagine what emotions and thoughts could possibly be felt while seeing this setting and knowing what horrible events have happened.

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  22. It seems very ironic to me how such a beautiful location can be a host to such terrible thoughts of the Nazis. I don't think O could picture walking through these locations after reading the book Night by Elie Wiesel. His descriptions really spoke to me and I don't think I would be able to handle something like this.

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  23. Dear Group,As this week is Days of Remembrance in the US, it's really poignant that you are there and especially at such a mournful time for Poland. I am sure this gives the study tour even more meaning than you ever imagined. Your presence at this sad time must be a comfort to the people you meet. Not only are you learning this history through historic sites, but the people you are meeting and connecting with, and the evidence you are gathering are creating an impact far beyond anything you might study in a traditional classroom setting. I applaud you for the work you do, for the care you give to this, and to your leaders. I'll be thinking of the Holocaust Study Tour tomorrow, when I am in the US Capitol Rotunda, listening to General Petraeus. Best,Christina Chavarria

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  24. Quite an ironic thing of the \”Solution\” being organized in such a beautiful location. Just goes to show the irony of the Holocaust. While millions(?) were suffering and dying unjustly, life was going on happily outside the camps.

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