After studying both Nazi Germany and the Cold War through nondescript GCSE textbooks and handouts, I and thirty nine other year elevens were thrilled to visit the place about which we had heard so much about; Berlin.
Touching down at the grey, concrete airport just outside central Berlin and travelling then down the main roads, the most immediate observation to become apparent was the similarity of the buildings. The vast majority were functional to the point of dull and had obviously seen better days. This was the first hint at the gulf of difference between capitalist London, which has a varied kaleidoscope of architecture, and Berlin with its communist history.
We next enjoyed a fantastic tour of the main touristic hotspots of the city on foot. Although reaching temperatures of minus eleven, most of us were engrossed in the hoard of interesting gems of information and insight that under our layers we felt fine.
Thinking back, the people of the city, the everyday Berliner of Potsdamer Platz, seemed oblivious to this history that has become synonymous with their city. Our group were polar opposite to how they felt. It begs the question, do we, living so close to London; once the capital of the British Empire, reject our history?
In Berlin, an example could be the site of Hitler’s infamous bunker. It is situated only ten metres from a huge block of flats but since filled completely with concrete. Of course, it is wise to avoid turning the site into a monument for Neo-Nazis, but I do not believe that smoothing over history as if it never happened is wise either. Surely humanity should remember its darkest period so history does not repeat?
Wishing to give a chronological account of all the places we visited, word counts apply. I will, however, touch upon the place that touched us most. Located disturbingly close to metropolitan Berlin, Sachsenhausen concentration camp was in a prime location as the administrative control centre for the whole Holocaust. I shall not list the obscene facts about this camp but one does stick in my mind. The camp was at one point so overcrowded that one dawn role call took eighteen hours as all ‘workers’ were counted. Having to stand during this time caused over twenty people to drop dead.
In the four days were there, we visited many sites of both the communist and fascist eras. It was interesting to how the two regimes dealt with their victims. The communist Stazi police force focused on intense, individual and physiological torture to extract information from political opponents. This contrasts dramatically to the techniques used by the Nazi Party shown above. I noticed the contrast while visiting the Stazi Prison. Surrounding the Prison, greyness was supreme; colour had been eradicated.