The Jews loved German culture for its music, art, and literature. Olaf explained that Germans, such as composer Richard Wagner, held the view that a "true" German was like a tree- a German could only develop from roots that were fully Germanic . He did not believe that famous German composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was truly German. Although his father had converted to Christianity from Judiasm and Felix was Christian from birth, his roots were Jewish. For Germans who shared Wagner's beliefs, even though Jews were granted citizenship in 1871 with the establishment of the constitutional monarchy in Germany, Jews would never be Germans.
Enjoying the beautiful sunshine, 70 degree temperature and blooming flowers, we slowly walked to the memorial for the 55,000 Jewish people from Berlin killed during the Holocaust. Located on what Olaf called "the street of tolerance," nicknamed for the proximity of this Jewish landmark to the Lutheran church and Catholic hospital, this memorial stands where formerly a synagogue and Jewish school were located, and next to a cemetary where Jews were buried from 1671 until 1877. We viewed the grave of the famous Moses Mendelssohn, who immigrated to Berlin in the 1740's and is known for extablishing the Jewish school for boys and beginning the assimilation movement at the end of the 18th century.
An authentic memorial is impactful because it allows us to step inside the shoes of real people. Standing inside Otto´s workshop, surrounded by the same walls as Alice and Inge, enabled us to empathize with the reality of fear and uncertainty that they lived with every day. Being able to stand where people stood who didn´t know if they would survive another week was surreal as none of us have ever had to fear for our lives every hour of every day.
Otto Weidt's factory for the blind and the Memorial for Murdered European Jews in Berlin's center commemorate the Holocaust and its victims in very different ways. After visiting numerous memorials and authentic sites, we felt that Otto Weidt´s factory portrayed a personal connection to the Holocaust in a more effective manner. While in the exhibition, all who visited were quiet and respectful and absorbed the true meaning of the room. The experience of the hiding place was enhanced by the authenticity of the place and the personal connections we made with the narrative.
Tara, Greg, Mackenzie, Gayle and Kyle write:
The Rosenstrasse Memorial deeply affected most of our group members. This memorial was about a group of Christian women in Berlin protesting together to get their Jewish husbands back. The majority of the husbands were returned in the end. These women, held at gunpoint, were doing something brave, and, at any point, they could have died. Yet, they chose to stay, and that courage struck us. In Otto´s factory, our guide explained the story of a man who had hidden Jews and risked his life to provide for others. We were able to connect the small details of everyday life with the actual hardship of hiding.
|Olaf and the students at the Fifth Annual Peace Wall in Berlin|