We have now spent a full (and I mean full) 48 hours here in Berlin, and it has been nothing short of amazing! Berlin is quite an interesting city, with a rich culture as well as a tumultuous history. But what I find truly amazing about Berlin is that it doesn’t try to hide or cover up its history, it embraces that it happened and memorializes it to ensure that history does not cycle back around. The history of the Holocaust and Berlin Wall can seem so far away when learning about them in school back home. But now that we are here, the weight of Berlin’s history has become so much more impactful.
Day 1 in Berlin first consisted of CR10 navigating our way to meet Dr. P at the Brandenburg Gate. We were then divided into our small groups! Abby, Ryal, Lauren, Marat, and myself all make up Team Bravo! We then were left to our own devices, consisting of a road and subway map, to navigate our way to certain locations within Berlin. We learned how to navigate the infamous U Bahn and truly began to connect on a deeper level as a group as the day progressed. Our group spent the most time at the Berlin Wall Memorial and the German History Museum (and prioritized snacking on some chocolate too). Throughout this day, I realized how much I had to learn about German history and I loved being able to connect what I saw within the museum to the actual historical sites as I saw when I was walking around the city.
Day 2 was met with much more emotion from our team. Our day was completely centered on the Holocaust. We started at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews, which consists of an entire city block filled with concrete slabs. This serves as a blunt reminder to the city of the atrocities that occurred. We ended up visiting this memorial at night, and I found that experience to be even more moving than when we visited this during the day. While this memorial along was incredibly powerful, what lies below the memorial is where our group shared extremely meaningful moments. The museum is what lies directly below the memorial. This is truly the most moving exhibition I have ever encountered. It consisted of photos and biographies of the lives that were lost in the Holocaust by displaying their personal journals. I took a moment to reflect towards the end of the exhibit and was overcome with questions. How could this have happened? From a psychological standpoint, why did everyone believe that Jewish individuals were the enemy? A particular moment that left an impact on me was a journal entry from an officer who carried out mass executions on the Jews. He had little to no remorse for the situation which literally sent shivers down my spine and allowed me to formulate so many more questions. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that a man would carry out mass executions of innocent people, and then return home to his family as if nothing horrific had just occurred. Our group really connected within our discussions following this museum.
The second day of exploration also allowed for growth as a team, as well as personal growth. The first two days of Berlin have been moving and breathtaking. Day 3 has some high expectations that I’m sure it will surpass, just as the days going forward will be met with more growth, connections, and true exploration!