April 8, 2010 Day 3 – Berlin


Our long day began in Berlin and ended in Prague. As we reflect on our morning spent at the Otto Weidt hidden workshop for the blind, we remember the courage of this man whose brush factory was located in the heart of Berlin. He not only hired blind workers, but also hired Jews and hid them in a tiny back room of the factory behind a wardrobe cabinet.

From there we walked to the Rosenstrasse Memorial, an incredibly meaningful series of carved stones depicting heart-wrenching scenes of wives, husbands and their children. These images represent the courage of the Christian women of Berlin whose Jewish husbands and children were arrested by the Nazis to be deported. Because of their public protests on Rosenstrasse in front of the holding cells, the Nazis released these Jewish men and children and most of them lived through the war working at forced labor for the Nazis.

We studied the intriguing history of the Jews at the Jewish Museum, designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind. The tour included an impression of the meaning behind the architectural structure of the museum, as well as an informative lecture by Shalmi Barmore on the history of the Jews in Berlin.

After a quick bus ride and hurried lunch, we boarded the train for the 5 hour trip to Prague, and are eagerly anticipating tomorrow morning touring the Jewish Quarter here.

25 comments

  1. The most interesting artifact in the Jewish History Museum, in my opinion was the Christmas Tree, fully decorated, that was in a Jewish home. This Christmas Tree was in use by German Jews, not because of their belief in the holiday, but simply because the other children in the neighborhood had one. One time in 5th grade, I had Hebrew school after school on Tuesday and Thursday, and my friends would always ask what that was. I said CCD so that I could skip the explanation. Instead of trying to explain to my friends what the differences were, I tried to make it one in the same. Being Jewish, I have gone through slight similarities, when at a few moments there have been parts of me that have tried to assimilate even more and attempt to slightly play down my religion more. While the quality of Jewish life is at an all time high, I sense the feeling of unintentional ignorance in a non-Jewish community. I think it is still interesting that many of these same attitudes were around for hundreds of years prior to my schooling.

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  2. Erin said…Rossenstrasse struck me because it had a lot of emotion put into it by the architect. You could see the Jewish men that were trapped, a Jewish woman running towards her husband as well as a group of women crying and begging for their husbands' release. I think the whole memorial shows how powerful a minority group can be in persuading the Nazis. I feel that if more groups against the Nazi party used this kind of demonstration, more atrocities could have been avoided or changed.

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  3. Otto Weidt did many things to help blind and deaf Jews. One thing he could not do was save all of them. He saved a group of those who worked in his shop. I was shocked by the amount of work he put into saving these people's lives. He went to the very extremes of his capabilities to make their lives better. He was a man of tremendous character, and that showed through all of his work. I was amazed by his ability to construct a hiding place within his brush factory, and even when some were deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, he continued to support them in their struggle. He sent them packages with food and postcards with encouraging messages. Rescuers like Otto Weidt are true heroes and their stories are honorable and courageous.

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  4. It is so great to see what you are up to on the trip and see the immediate student responses. After going on the trip last year, Otto Weidt's factory was one of the things I connected with the most because one of my best friends is blind. It is really great to see someone else's view on it! Have a great rest of the trip! Can't wait to see what you all write about in the book!

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  5. The man who hid the Jews was incredibly honorable. It's amazing that he had the courage to hide them because he put his own life at risk. Most people probably would not do what he did because the terror they felt was overbearing.

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  6. The carved stones look absoluetly magnificent. It's hard knowing that people actually had to go through seperation of their loved ones during these times, realizing that they would never see them ever again.

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  7. The man who owned the factory for the blind to work at and hid the Jewish people at a time where it was not only dangerous for them but also for the man himself, was truly an honorable and brave man. He really did risk his life to save those who were hunted. Also, the statues of the women who lost their Jewish husbands and children must have been both amazing and difficult to see. Those statues may help represent the pain many people were forced to go through during this time, but also the strength they held to keep going.

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  8. To hide the Jews and protest the Nazis had to have been such a scary and courageous act, and that man was extremely brave. It must have taken so much strength for those women to have their husbands and children taken away from them. The statues are amazing. I like the pictures, too!

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  9. Whoever was brave and courageous enough to protect Jews despite the danger it would bring to their own lives, were heroes. The man who hid Jews was especially brave because his factory was in the heart of Berlin, Germany.

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  10. To hide Jews must have taken a lot of bravery and self-sacrifice, and the women must have endured so much grief when their husbands were taken by the Nazis. I truly admire that.

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  11. The man who hid the Jews in order to save their lives, is truly brave and like Nichole said, a real hero. Being able to risk your life for the sake of someone else, for the safety of a stranger's life, is doubtlessly inspiring. I'm grateful to know that not everyone was heartless towards the Jews, and kindhearted people such as he, did exist during a time that was overwhelmed by complete darkness.

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  12. It's cool to read about Otto right after watching Schindler's List. We read (and write!) often about the Jews that stood up against their oppressors, but not often do we think of the Germans who stood up. Otto and Oskar's actions show that not all Germans were ignorant of or agreed with the way the Jews and others were being treated.I also love that you can travel from Germany to the Czech Republic in five hours. 🙂 Since I'm used to living in Kansas the thought of being in a foreign country within a few hours is pretty cool.

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  13. Otto Weidt risked his life every day for the blind. I learned that there were Germans that helped some Jews. It is easy to turn your back away to those who need help, but Otto did not. From this blog, I learned more about him than I knew before. He not only helped Jews, but he helped the blind who could not see. Even though they could not see, he gave them their lives to live.

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  14. It is inspiring to know that those Christian women stood up and protested for the freedom of their Jewish husbands and children. Although the women could have faced the same sentence as their spouses, they were courageous enough to protest for the safety others lives.- TJ Gorman

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  15. I found this blog very interesting. Otto is a great person and truely a hero. He helped not only the blind but also the Jews knowing the consequences. I knew that people hide Jewish citizens but i did not know that they hired them to work to try not to get them to work camps. It is also so amazing of what a protest can accomplish. Those people that protested are also hereos because they did not know the outcome of their actions but were still willing to risk their lives to save those women, men, and children. I am reminded of the bravery that people had back then. I commend all the peole that stood up to the Nazis during this horrible time.

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