Sunday, April 6, 2014

Day 2: Berlin

We began our day at the German History Museum, where Olaf contextualized the history of nationalism in Germany, which had its origins in 1806 when Napoleon defeated the Germans. During the years 1826-1845, due to the Industrial Revolution, the German population rose from 23 million to 32.7 million. Jews and others moved from the country farms into cities to find factory jobs. Jews, who were educated, literate, cosmopolitan and engaged in commerce, desired to assimilate into German society.
video video
video video


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.

We spent the next hour in the Otto Weidt Workshop for the Blind. In this factory, the blind and deaf employees made brooms and brushes out of horse hair and pig hair for the war effort. Otto Weidt also employed Jews in his factory and used the Berlin Work Act to legally keep employing his Jewish workers during the war.  Eventually he hid eleven Jews in three hideouts inside the workshop.  

video


video



After an outdoor lunch, we walked to 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, stood outside in an unarmed, quiet protest, demanding the
release of their families. Despite machine-gun-armed Nazi efforts to make the protesters go away, they did not give up. Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda decided to release their husbands to prevent a public relations nightmare and to prevent additional protests. 


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.

Outside of the cemetary further down the "street of tolerance," Olaf pointed out the memorial "stumbling" stones that are embedded in the sidewalks throughout Berlin which the students had not noticed before. These stones commemorate the Jews who lived in Berlin, and tell their date of birth, what date and where they were deported, and their fate.

From here, we went to the New Synagogue, which was opened in 1866. The architecture resembles the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain, with its Moorish architecture.  The first female rabbi in the world served in this synagogue in the years leading to the Holocaust and was later deported to Terezin and killed at Auschwitz. Bombed in November of 1943, the synagogue laid in ruins until the fall of the Berlin Wall, when it was renovated.  Now the gold dome shines in the sun as a landmark of Berlin and houses the Jewish Community Center of Berlin, where the Jewish population consists mainly of Russian and Ukrainian Jews, older Holocaust survivors who were born in Poland, and Israelis.

Student Reflections:
Group 1:


Dana, Nicole, Shane, Trevor and Sarah write: 
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.
Yesterday, visiting the commemorative Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, we were at first unsure about how to feel.  We soon realized we could contemplate individually what it meant to each of us.  The rows of stones, called stelae, pushed us to open our minds and think about all possible interpretations

Group 2:


Kiefer, Jane, Raquel, Matt, and Nick write:

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.

Group 3:
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

26 comments:

  1. I've been lucky enough to be part of this experience every year (state side). Although I have learned much from this program and Mrs. T, it never ceases to amaze me in how much I continue to learn through all of your reflections. Thanks again for sharing and enjoy. Mr. P.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Otto Wiedt's Workshop for the Blind really hits home for many of us. Keep the reflections coming! I love being able to relate with students after my experience in 2011.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was in an Israeli paper, Haaretz, on April 4th concerning teaching the holocaust to German students.

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/.premium-1.583823

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was unaware of the existence of the Rosenstrasse Memorial. Your photos and reflections took my breath away. What an amazing account of courage! Thank you for sharing your adventure.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fabulous to see everyone taking in things first hand. I can only imagine the affect this has after all the discussions and the readings. Great work.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The most powerful component of learning is reflection. You would be hard pressed to find a learning experience that will allow you to reflect more than you will on this journey. I look forward to reading and sharing your reflections over the course of your trip.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your reflections are powerful, insightful, full of emotion, and have a maturity far beyond your chronological years. I enjoy reading each one.
    -Mrs. Harle

    ReplyDelete
  8. This compontent of the learning experience helps to bring to light those who were active in aiding persecuted Jews. It is very important to recognize and appreciate non-Jews who rebeled against Nazi Ideology and Hitler's reform. The Rosenstrasse Memorial is undoubtedly an excellent display of undying love, no matter what religious affliation.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Otto's workshop is an incredible experience to observe. The constant fear that these people endured daily, is incomprehensible. This is a foreshadowing of the hands on learning that will encounter in the coming days.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Here, you all can already see how beneficial real life memorials are for everyone. Being inside Otto's factory shows the first example of the many( yet not enough sadly) extremely kind people that risked their lives to save innocent lives. This is only the beginning of what is to come, and you all will see of the many different risky and extreme things people did to save their lives, and of others'. Reflections on what you guys see is very important for the following weeks, and even further down the road, as it creates insightful ideas, and questions. It was great to hear what you all thought of what you have seen so far, and I can't wait to hear the rest.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I remember visiting Otto's Workshop vividly. I reacted the same way that most of you did, reflecting on the fear that was felt by the not only the people being hidden, but the people keeping them safe as well. I think the workshop is a strong reminder that some people were willing to risk everything to do what was right. Similarily, when the wives depicted in the Rosenstrasse Memorial were willing to give their lives to save their husbands. Unfortunately, there was not enough selfless people to help the Jews during this time.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Having the opportunity to learn about Otto Wolf's struggles through the Holocaust teaches you how to respect those who helped this family. The individuals who helped to keep the Wolf family safe truly risked their lives. I'm sure that this learning experience is only the beginning of what is to come. I'm excited to read more of your posts for the next two weeks!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Even though I have never had the chance to go on this trip, knowing that the kids are recognizing the struggles of the Jews and non-Jews amazes me on how they put their own lives at risk for protecting the persecuted. Hope everything is going well so far!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I never been to the holocaust trip but it looks fun going to Germany and learning about the history of many years ago of what happened. the blind and deaf employees made brooms and brushes out of horse hair and pig hair for the war effort.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I am learning so much from reading your blog and reflections each day, here at home, that I can only imagine how much Tara and the other students are learning from actually being there! "From our students, we are taught!" (And from some very special teachers, too!) Thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I never been on a plane and the holocaust trip looks interesting going to Germany and learning about how bad the camps were

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for posting all of your experiences and thoughts - it really makes me feel like I am sharing in your learning and enlightenment. Thanks for teaching a teacher =)

    ReplyDelete
  19. The photos are excellent, and I always feel like you are much closer than you really are! What a fortunate group this year, to be blessed with the first hand accounts they are getting from their guides. The expressions clearly show us how they feel about what they are learning, and we learn from them!

    ReplyDelete
  20. i like the Berlin wall videos and pictures.i couldn't imagine something i grew up with being torn down because its was kinda of history

    ReplyDelete
  21. I can understand how deeply moving this is for you. This was such an incredible tragedy that no description can substitute for what you are experiencing.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think its awesome that all of you get to the chance to experience this trip. I think going to another country is an amazing opportunity and I really hope you all get as much as you can out of the trip, not only from the information but from the culture of the country as well.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I hope you all are having a great time on this trip, just remember to listen to shalmi very carefully and learn a lot guys. this is a once in a life time trip.

    ReplyDelete
  24. From my teachers, I have learned much; from my colleagues, I have learned more; from my students, I have learned the most. I love learning with you. It would seem that the empathy gained through these experiences will stay with you forever.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Regarding the 'Jews will never be Germans' comment above, it seemed to contrast greatly with the Wolf family introduction. "They were very much assimilated into mainstream culture...Otto attended a middle school there, as did Felicitas, who...went on to attend a technical design school. Meanwhile, Kurt was studying medicine at a nearby university."
    Also, Otto runs into numerous people while he and his family are in hiding—all of whom he knows by name. Though this is probably largely due to the nature of small towns, it still proves Otto was assimilated deeply into the culture and life of his hometown.

    ReplyDelete