Day 3: Berlin

Our first stop was the Bavarian Quarter, a neighborhood of Berlin where Jews, including Albert Einstein, once lived.  Here we viewed a modern memorial constructed in 1992 which consists of signs with pictures on one side and anti-Jewish laws or rules on the other. Olaf led a discussion in how some of these laws came from the top down–such as “Jews are not allowed to travel outside Germany”– and some came from the bottom up–such as “No Jews are allowed to sing in choirs.” It is important to realize that the Nazis set some laws in place, but community members in Germany also made their own anti-Jewish rules.


 An outgrowth of the Bavarian Quarter Memorial is an ongoing educational project by students in a neighborhood elementary school who research the life a German Jewish person killed during Holocaust.  The students commemorate the story of the person’s life with an engraved brick that becomes part of a wall constructed in the schoolyard.

We continued our day at Grunewald Train Station, the site where many Jews of Berlin were deported to concentration camps that included Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. This memorial shows the dates of deportation, the number of Jews deported and the camp to which they were sent. This memorial was commissioned by the German Railway to address their role in the Holocaust. Students viewed this memorial, after Olaf’s explanation that the German Railroad profited greatly from the deportations because the German Jews were forced to pay for their train tickets.


After a stop for an authentic German lunch, including schnitzel, German potato salad and cucumber salad, we went to the Wannsee House. Travelling to the Wannsee, Olaf talked about the city of West Berlin and the beautiful area of homes near Wannsee Lake. 
Our guide at the Wannsee House, a young woman born in Tel Aviv, told our group about the events that led to the meeting at Wannsee, which occurred January 20, 1942. Using photographs and other primary source documents, she explained the roots of Nazi racial antisemitism and their use of propaganda to promote their fallacies that Jews were part of a separate inferior race. She pointed out photos of Jewish-Christian couples who were being paraded down German streets while holding degrading signs. She then explained that the Nuremberg  Race Laws of 1935 were not put into effect until after these photos were taken.  This fact echoes the idea Olaf explained in the Bavarian Quarter that some of these laws came from the bottom up and that these public demonstrations against so-called “mixed” relationships occurred locally before becoming official Nazi policy. After pointing out the T-4 program, also known as the murder of the handicapped, she talked about the Christopher Browning research on the role of the Einsatzgruppen.  These mobile killing squads were charged with killing Jews in the East in places like the Ukraine.  Browning investigated a particular unit of the Einsatzgruppen in which 12 of 500 men refused to follow orders to kill the Jews.  Contrary to commonly held beliefs, these men were not punished by their superiors.  

The Wannsee Conference itself was made up 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 Nazi 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 conquer. These bureaucrats figured out the practical side of how to carry out the plan concocted by the Nazi officials. 
Student Reflections of Berlin – Video Commentary



  1. You have all begun to learn so much already. Seeing the student reflections was especially meaningful. Its is unbelievable to think about what humans have done to one another. But to see it and experience it, in the way you are, will help you all to make this world a better place.


  2. Love the videos!! It is hard to believe that the treatment the Jews received was even possible. The signs at the Bavarian Quarter are just one example of the unfair treatment. Also, the train tracks must have been a powerful sight. The tracks led to many blind hardships.


  3. I also love the addition of the videos this year! After reading the comments about the laws imposed by communities and only 12 of 500 men refusing to follow orders, I was reminded of the words of Anne Frank: \”I don't believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.\”


  4. I think the quick reflection with the train tracks behind you guys was powerful. Sometimes it is the simplest \”items\” – train tracks, shoes, etc. that invoke a powerful emotion.


  5. The Star of David made from stones, by the train tracks, was a beautiful tribute, I think. It is great to see what you are seeing, not only the photos, but hearing and seeing the videos, as well! Loved your reflections! Can't wait to hear more! 🙂


  6. I like the sound of the outgrowth of the Bavarian Quarter Memorial, it is an excellent way to incorporate educating young students about their history while also contributing to the country's remembrance of the Holocaust


  7. I love the fact that you all able to be so serious and truly take in what happened and what you are surrounded by. I think decided to go on a trip like this shows so much maturity.


  8. Incredible, personal reflections! I'm watching you as you learn, AND I am learning with you:) The videos offer amazing connections, hearing your voices and seeing your faces It's incredible how fresh and new the trip continues to be year after year…


  9. \”Browning investigated a particular unit of the Einsatzgruppen in which 12 of 500 men refused to follow orders to kill the Jews.\”SImilarly, the \”landlords\” who host Otto's family were more human than any brief story we hear in the news or read about in textbooks. Those stories are always about how selfless the hosts were, how courageous. Otto's hosts weren't always this heroic.Slavek was neglectful and domineering, and the Pluhars, Tichas, and Zborils, were often just as scared as their guests. While these families were undoubtably crucial to the Wolf family survival, they were often neglectful, or angry, or scared. It was interesting to see another side of these people portrayed.


  10. It is interesting to read about how many of the laws that restricted Jewish rights were brought upon by the public and not just by the Nazis. It really shows how many of the Germans in the time were not just bystanders of the Nazi racial ideology, but supported what the government said so strongly that they felt they should take responsibility to personally further persecute the Jews living in the area.


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