For tonight's blog, instead of pictures, we have included video reflections of students on their Berlin experiences, filmed during our train ride from Berlin to Prague.
Our busy day began at the Book Burning Memorial near Humbolt University. Here, in 1933, students burned books written by Jews, socialists and political dissidents. The memorial is not visible from the street, in fact, one has to almost walk over it to even see it. Under the ground, beneath clear plexiglass, is a room lined with empty, white bookshelves. Shalmi again asked the question, “Who were these people” who fought the power of ideas and the power of words by burning them? What an unexpected place to burn books and to be threatened by ideas: in a city square adjacent to Humbolt University. Engraved in the plaque near the memorial is the Heinrich Heine quote "There where they burn books, they will be one day burning people." Ironically, and perhaps prophetically, Heine wrote this in 1820.
Our day continued at the Rosenstrasse Memorial. This site recognizes the brave Christian women, whose Jewish husbands and children were arrested during the Factory Action, in February of 1943, when the Nazis swept through Berlin in their efforts to make it "Jew Free". These women, whose husbands and children were being kept in the former Jewish Community Center on Rosenstrasse street, stood outside in an unarmed, quiet protest, demanding the release of their families. Despite Nazi efforts to make them go away, they did not give up, and Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, decided to release them to prevent a public relations nightmare and prevent additional protests.This memorial calls to mind what Shalmi spoke of as the sensitivity of the dictator to the will of the people. As brutal as a regime may be, if people protest and don't give in, the regime will fail.
We visited the Jewish Museum of Berlin, which was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind.
To view pictures of the museum and its architecture, click here.
He said that Germany,as does a former lover, jilted the Jews, and dumped them, completely rejecting the one-sided love the Jews felt for their country. For Shalmi, this museum poses more questions - does Germany miss the presence of Jewish culture in German society? Is there lack of presence felt as a void by modern German society?
After our five hour train ride from Berlin to Prague, we ate dinner at a beautiful, Czech restaurant with traditional Czech entertainment.