Sunday, April 3, 2016

Day 1 - Berlin, Germany

The students from New Milford High School arrived this morning in Berlin and joined the students from Bishop O’Dowd High School who had arrived last night.  After a wonderful breakfast in our hotel, we boarded our bus with our local guide, Olaf and our historian, Shalmi Barmore and headed off to our first stop.  Our usual agenda for the city was changed as today Berlin was having a half-marathon which shut down many of the streets to traffic so that navigating the city was a challenge.  We, therefore, began at the German historical museum where Mr. Barmore would attempt to give context to the events we would be studying.  Olaf had told us on the bus ride to the museum that Germany became a nation in 1871.  Mr. Barmore began by discussing how nations are formed or crystallized around a common history and how nationalism played a significant role in the development of Nazism.   Before a statue of Germania, representing the strength and power of the German empire  we discussed how history is what we remember and how history is subject to interpretation and can be manipulated.  Continuing through the museum we stopped before a large painting of the crowning of Wilhem being crowned Emperor  in the Palace of Versailles following Germany’s success in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871.    Following Germany’s loss in World War I Versailles would have a new meaning for the Germany people and she would embark on a difficult fifteen year period with a new kind of government -  a republic – which would be destroyed by the rise of Nazism.  We analyzed posters from the two extremes on the political spectrum in Germany during the Weimar Republic (the  communists on the left and the Nazis on the right) and how both groups attempted to provide simple answers to complex problems in the society, manipulating the facts in order to generate followers.   We ended our visit to the museum before a model of the human body where Mr. Barmore talked about how Nazism came not just with a nationalistic message, but also a racial message; that all that all of the crises in Germany, including the loss of World War I, had happened because of an enemy that had been allowed to penetrate German society and was destroying it from within:  that enemy being the Jews.  If Germany were to cleanse itself of this group, and heed the wake up call of the Nazis, Germany would be able to regain her past glory.



After having lunch in the Potsdamer Platz, we visited the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of the Holocaust, designed  by Peter Eisenman and dedicated in 2005.  It consists of 2,711 concrete blocks or “stellae” arranged in a seemingly haphazard manner, on a sloping surface which rises and falls as one walks through the stellae.  After experiencing wandering through the memorial, students discussed with Olaf and Mr. Barmore,  the meaning of memorials and how traditional memorials differed from modern memorials, as well as the controversy which often accompanies creation of memorials.  Crossing the street to the Memorial of the Murdered Homosexuals, this discussion continued as Mr. Barmore spoke to us about the politics of memory: how memory is often used or maniplated for our needs today.



We then boarded the bus to head back to the hotel where we checked into our rooms and relaxed for a short time before heading to dinner.

















17 comments:

  1. Looking forward to following you on your journey. I truly appreciate the lessons and insights you already are providing. Wishing you all a safe and inspiring journey.

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  2. Already learning so much from your first blog. I can tell from everyone's intent expressions that this will be an experience you will never forget. Stay safe.

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  3. The experiences and lessons are beginning. Keep up the great work! Give my best to Mr. Barmore.

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  4. Glad to see my girl! Be safe and enjoy

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  6. I hope everyone is taking in everything they see and hear! This was one of the greatest experiences of my life!

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  8. I'm getting nostalgic reading this post I can't wait to read more! I can still perfectly remember my first day on this trip. I hope everyone makes the best of this experience, it's impossible to recreate and is truly remarkable. By far the best, most insightful 2 weeks of my life.

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  9. I remember the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of the Holocaust very vividly, particularly our discussion revolving around its impact on the community--I remember children were running and playing while we were being introduced to the memorial and its harrowing history. I've discussed this memorial with my classmates and one of them mentioned how intrigued she was by how haphazard it was--especially when those "stellae" don't indicate a specific number of Murdered Jews, it seems to emphasize that it doesn't matter how many Jews were murdered, it matters that it even happened in the first place. I'm not sure if I agree, but it was certainly an interesting interpretation. That said, I hope everyone understands the significance of this opportunity and that it is an enlightening two weeks.

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  10. You are embarking on an amazing experience, be sure to take it all in and enjoy this fantastic learning opportunity! My period 1 class and I will be following your journey every step of the way!

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  11. Best of luck over there to all the students! I wish I could have had this opportunity when I was in HS. Enjoy every moment!

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  13. I went through some old pictures today and I found some from Berlin! It was so crazy to see the memorial where a wedding took place two years ago, and now see other New Milford kids there too! I loved the Berlin Memorial, because it was so simple that it could really mean anything! Glad to hear the first day went well!

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  14. This is amazing! It's so great to see your little faces there! Make sure to pull Alysia out from behind that camera and get a few pics of her while you're there! Love you guys!

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  15. As you travel in Berlin with a map in hand, you will be able to learn the routes of the city in a better way during the self-guided tour. Labyrintoom Facebook

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