Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 1 - Berlin

After an all night flight from the states, we began our day by meeting our German guide Olaf at the airport and immediately began learning about the wonderful city of Berlin. As we drove to the hotel, Olaf explained some of the history of the city of Berlin, including the East-West division post World War II until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Once at our hotel, we met up with the group from Bishop O'Dowd in Oakland, CA. Shalmi Barmore, our historian for the entire Holocaust Study Tour greeted us and we were on our way to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. While there, Shalmi discussed the meaning of this modern memorial in the "center of the center of Berlin". In contrast to traditional memorials this modern memorial is purposefully ambiguous; we are not told what it is- we are free to judge and walk inside and experience it. After having time to interact with this outdoor exhibit students had the following reactions: Sammy Bell - The memorial symbolizes that Jews during the Holocaust did not know what to expect: around the corner you meet the unexpected like when someone ran by me inside the memorial and it startled me.


Greg Winkler - You felt more trapped as you descended into the memorial, it was harder and harder to get out.

After experiencing the central memorial, we walked across the street to the memorial in the park dedicated to the homosexual victims during the Holocaust. One of the issues discussed here was that the memorial itself seems to be hiding. This exhibit broaches the ongoing modern discrimination of the gay community worldwide.





We ate lunch at Potsdamer Platz and then went to the newly opened exhibit - The Topography of Terror - the site of the bureaucratic machinery that carried out Nazi policy including the SS and the Gestapo. Tomorrow Shalmi will lead us in a morning discussion that will address the essential questions surrounding Berlin and the "Final Solution" which will frame Day 2.




31 comments:

  1. Sounds like the trip got off to a great start! I would love to know a little more about how this years participants feel about the ambiguity of the memorial you visited today, especially since this memorial takes such a different approach then those that you will see as the trip progresses. I think it would be an interesting topic to discuss once more memorials are visited.

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  2. Thanks Meredith! We just finished debriefing and each student expressed their perspective on the ambiquity of the memorials today. Most students were intrigued by the expressive nature of the modern memorials and preferred this form of remembrance.

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  3. Fascinating. I remember how the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was being completed when our group went back in 2005 and we weren't able to explore and have the visceral response these kids experienced today.

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  4. I wonder what the group this year would define as inappropriate behavior at a memorial such as that. Being as large and open as it is in a public area might change how people act towards it. Does its significance deteriorate as it is implemented into a daily routine for the people of Berlin? Who knows, make answers for yourself!

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  5. The one negative that I can think of to the ambiguity of this memorial is that as time passes and we get farther and farther removed from the tragedies that occurred. Will the somewhat unmarked experience lose its impact?

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  6. A constant motif that has appeared during my study of the Holocaust has been the uncertainty experienced by the Jews. Uncertainty about the fate of the deported Jews, uncertainty about the whereabouts of family and friends, uncertainty about if they will be able to eat, uncertainty about if they will survive. Everyday was lived in fear, not knowing what was to come. I think that the mazelike, trapping, and uncertain design of the memorial truly helps people to begin to understand the depth of the suffering of Jews and other persecuted people during the Holocaust.

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  7. This is sooo true... whether it was one person or 11 million people who were killed this was still a harmful act. To think that one person can influence thousands of people to act in such a cruel way is astonishing. Six millions Jews suffered for one mans selfishness. I'm sure this memorial expresses to the students who experienced this , that this is a eye-opener and no one should ever doubt the Holocaust happened because right here, this IS proof.

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  8. It is interesting to learn that there is a memorial to the homosexual victims of the Holocaust. Most people will look at the Holocaust and directly relate it to the massacre of the Jewish population and will not recognize that there were still a lot of other groups that were persecuted. The monument serves as respect to the victims that died but also can serve as a reminder that homosexuals deserve complete acceptance in today's world.

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  9. It's neat that there is a memorial for the homosexual victims of the Holocaust. The gay people that live in Berlin now must be proud and happy that there is a memorial like that in the city. I wonder if there are any memorials in the United States for gay soldiers or any other group like that.
    -Dashawn Harden

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  10. Hello,

    You all don't waste any time jumping right into the sightseeing and beginning the emotional rollercoaster of your tour. I really enjoyed how Day 1 in Berlin the different memorials you all saw allowed each visitor to experience the memorial for themselves and take it in how they perceive it. This experience is very moving for you all being able to interpret it how you want and feel for yourself all the emotions. It is interesting how Greg said as you went further into the memorial he felt more and more trapped and it felt harder to get out. I think that symbolizes how many victims felt during the Holocaust with each passing day feeling more trapped and feeling that there was no tomorrow. The homosexual memorial is situated strategically, somewhat hidden from society, much like many homosexuals today feel separated from society. Enjoy your next few days!

    -Laura Negley

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  11. I hope I properly understand this but is the memorial a series of cement blocks arranged similarly to a maze? Why would they make this memorial so ambiguous? This is a huge event in history so I think that you should be able to understand what it is for and what it represents. Maybe it has a deeper symbolic meaning of the confusion of the time or the generalization of all those who were killed.

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