Saturday, May 19th; 1:00am Berlin, Germany – Amazing! What an incredible experience I’ve had thus far on CR10! We just finished up our third day, and it feels like we’ve been here for a month already! The days are so full, some might even say “rich,” but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. The things we have seen and the information we have learned has been unbelievably impactful. It has oftentimes left me, the guy who never stops talking, speechless. It’s truly an incredible experience to be in the actual space where so much history has occurred. Berlin as a city does an incredible job confronting its history and presenting an unbiased account of that history very clearly to the public through a myriad of dynamic memorials which spark intentional dialogue and tough conversations among its visitors and onlookers. Many of the memorials and monuments are presented in a way which allows its meaning to be up for interpretation by the visitors, rather than simply “spoon-feeding” the historical facts to them.
One thing that really resonated with me today throughout our journey today was the power of one. In the same way that we as individuals are statistically insignificant in comparison to the global population, each one of us is infinitely significant in a sense that we have an effect on every person we meet and therefore the world would be monumentally different without our presence in it. Now I know that’s a tough one to swallow sometimes, and especially when trying to confront large-scale problems like racism, homophobia, or mass genocide it is extremely difficult to see how one person can have such a considerable influence on the world and those around her or him.
The power of one was extremely evident today when we visited the Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. This free museum was dedicated to Otto Weidt, a non-Jewish blind man who in 1941 employed around 35 blind and deaf Jews in his broom making shop. He protected these Jews by hiding them in secret rooms in the factory or bribing off the Gestapo if they were caught in their homes or in the streets. He created a network of people in the heart of Berlin who were also brave enough to help these Jews by hiding them in their home or buying them food on the black market. He did everything he could for these people, but unfortunately many of them were captured during “Operation Factory” in February 27th, 1943, when the Nazis declared that every Jew in Berlin should be gone. That day, the Nazis raided thousands of homes in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods and sent them all to concentration camps to be eventually executed. Otto was able to save some of the Jews who were married to German women, but most of his workers were executed in Auschwitz, and his factory was shut down. After the Nazis were defeated, Otto created the Home for Jewish Children and the Aged, the first safe haven for Jews in the post-Nazi Berlin. Many of the children that stayed there were those who had lost their parents in Auschwitz.
Otto is a prime example of the power of one. He was someone who didn’t try to do anything outside himself yet did everything he could to better the lives of these innocent Jewish people and their children. After his death, Otto was awarded the “Righteous Man of the World’s Nations” award. I think that Otto has an extremely powerful story that we can all look to for guidance. I just hope that had I been in that situation, I would’ve been as brave as Otto was in the face of danger and done everything I could for the betterment of the lives of others.
Until Next Time,
*Below is a photo of a trap door that Otto used to hide his workers in a small room for when the Nazis would come and do inspections of his factory