The Influence of One

Germany has given us a really hands-on experience with its history, and I’ve learned so much! But something that has really stood out to me is how Hitler was able to create and lead this huge Nazi Party. He carefully crafted this horrific history, and his carefully crafted image greatly influenced the world.

How can one influence the world, creating life-changing movements? And how can we be influential leaders who help the world grow?

Let’s begin with the history that inspired this thought.

The Beginnings

I learned so much between Berlin’s memorials and Munich’s Documentation Center.

Hitler’s rise to power began with learning how to reach people and fulfill their desires. After WWI, Hitler went back to Munich to learn how to speak to crowds and wealthy families, raising supporters. Any great leader and movement needs supporters, so Hitler was very smart to go after them first. This experience also shows that Hitler had to learn first. School is an incredible place to learn and I want to open my eyes up to all that TCU and the next three years have to offer.

Hitler also got put in prison, and while I don’t think every great leader needs to go to prison, we all face hardships. It’s the leaders who overcome obstacles and use hardships to grow that powerfully influence the world. During his time in prison, Hitler used this time to plan his new world and wrote Mein Kamph. This prompted me to ask, what hardships am I going through now and how can I use these challenges to grow?

Lastly, fun fact: Hitler wouldn’t allow anyone to take pictures of him until after 1923. He wanted to stage his photos to go with his movement. This just goes to show how much influence social media has. He even created Köningsplatz as the perfect background to his speeches and events. He carefully thought out his whole movement.

What image are you creating for yourself? And, why?

Learning, creating relationships, overcoming hardships, and crafting a social media presence are all steps to building clout and influence. But the power to choose if this influence is positive or negative completely rests on the individual.

The Choice

Hitler chose to try to create a ‘perfect’ society by destroying a whole group of people, but you could use influence to positively impact the world like by creating a world movement to live healthier. I know I want to craft an open, loving, enthusiastic influence to positively impact this world, influencing people to love others and themselves better.

Power Plays

The Nazi Party began in 1920 and Hitler focused the party on creating a perfect world without Jews. But come 1921, Hitler became the social chairman and changed the Nazi Party’s focus to follow himself, the Fürer.

After this turning point, the Nazi Party destroyed so many lives by using their influence in a negative way. In 1933, Munich was made the capital of modern art, pushing reactionary art over modern, persuading people propaganda was the truth. Parties other than the Nazi Party as well as sports groups who wouldn’t conform to the Nazi’s requests were banned. Hitler even created a secret police, making people so afraid of the consequences of resisting or not conforming. These steps slowly took away rights from those persecuted by the party. Hitler’s influence even grew so much that governmental permission was needed to buy houses and go into air-raid shelters. One had to have Nazi Party affiliation and the ability to produce racially desirable offspring to buy houses. There were even physical signs saying “No Jews Allowed.”

But how much different is this discrimination from the influencial standards surrounding us today? Do we value extroverts over introverts, certain body images or even specific job titles more than others? What restrictions have we put on people today?

Hitler clearly worked to create his own name and the perfect society, using the influence he crafted to kill millions. But something to be learned from him is how he was so dedicated and prepared to create a huge impact on the world. Then he was successful in making change. Unfortunately this took so many innocent lives, creating immense negative repercussions. But we each have the power to influence.

The Future

We can choose to stand up and stand out. We can choose to be the one to influence others. There are so many dreams present on CR10, and we each have the opportunity to enormously impact this world.

Emma has such a passion for helping others and she potentially wants to pursue law! Brooke has an incredible story that has led her to potentially do neurology. Jacob so passionately wants to help all people have access to life-saving healthcare! How cool!?! There are so many of us with enormous dreams to positively impact our world. The Crecade is unstoppable. We can learn and start using every single aspect of our lives to create an influence to positively impact the world.

We are truly learning to change the world. Let’s influence the world starting right now!

With love,

Lauren Rasmussen

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Dachau, in Me

Dachau. The name lingers in your mouth like a bad taste. It lingers in your ear like the sound of a gunshot. It lingers in the air like a foul smell. It is a name that brought fear into the hearts of those who heard it on the lips of SS officers during the height of the Nazi’s power. 

In me, the name conjures anger: anger that directed at humanity for being so flawed and misguided to create such a place of evil and hate. When I looked at the atrocities and systematic exterminations employed by human beings, I found myself hating all of those responsible for allowing such atrocities to occur. The torture devices, the constant beatings, and the threat of death looming over the prisoners’ heads like a dark, stagnant cloud. I was angry to share any humanity with the Nazis, knowing that what makes them human also makes me human and that I too have that potential for evil in me because I am human. A rage that I have never felt before burned inside of me when I saw the pictures of the bodies that were strewn and raked in piles, as if they had no identity. To the Nazis they were just… in the way. 

In me the name conjures sorrow: a deep sorrow for those whose lives were stolen from them. Lives that were stolen regardless of whether or not they survived the concentration camp. Their lives were still taken along with their humanity while the suffered in such a desolate place. When I saw the crematorium, I was surprised to find it not in a desolate area, but in a beautiful, wooded room of nature. I walked in this furnace of death and was taken aback by the mere presence of death in that place. Although the furnace in Dachau had not been used, it was still the site of hangings and mass murders. I walked in to the next room and found it was empty. It was a small room that was maybe a foot higher than my head reached. It didn’t strike me as significant. I walked out and turned to find a sign next to the door that brought clarity to the room. For I had walked through, and stood in the gas chamber. 

There was a path next to the crematorium that led to into the woods. I followed it in an attempt to ease the burden that is Dachau through the solace of nature. As I walked, I saw a large stone adjacent to the gravel path among the trees. As I approached it, it looked more and more like a tomb stone. I read the new apparent memorial. It was the site of the execution of many individual prisoners. It was called the pistol range. This beautiful area was the last thing that hundreds of prisoners would see before their death. I forced myself to stand before the area that they called the blood ditch, to look out into the trees as if this would he my last site on this earth. I turned around to where the SS officer would be standing. I stared down the barrel of his gun as he pulled the trigger. A bell tower in the distance struck at that exact moment, ripping my breath away from my lungs. 

In me the name conjures fear: a fear not quite the same that the thousands of victims who stayed in Dachau faced, but a fear that this oppression stemmed from hate could have and still can take me and those I love. Would I have been one of the victims of this terror? I do not fit the Aryan archetype. As half Indian and half Caucasian, would I have been deemed a threat to the Nazi’s perfect race? Would I have been persecuted for my religion? Would I have been silenced because of my political beliefs? In reality, I could have given the wrong look to an SS officer or slandered the government trusting the wrong person with my opinions and I could have been taken in the custody of Dachau. I am just living in a different era and that is the only thing that with certainty prevents me from being ripped from my family. But time is not a guarantee. These events can happen again because they happened before. 

In me the name also conjures hope: a hope that is not prominent but is there nonetheless. A hope that we as global neighbors, no, a global gamily can grow and learn to work and look through the rhetoric of hate, to look at each other’s differences as strengths rather than weaknesses. It gives me hope knowing that in the end, there were survivors, there was an end to the destruction, and there was peace achieved. It gives me hope to know that Germany has become incredibly progressive and has sought every opportunity to memorialize its mistakes as a nation so that the memory of the victim and the atrocities done to them lives on. It is a world leader in its journey to equality on all fronts. The transgressions of the Nazis can and will never be forgotten, not by the world, and especially not by me. It is through the knowledge of this strife that we can grow toward a peaceful society. For we will never again allow this to happen. 

Dachau shall always remain within me. It is an experience that will haunt me, yet it will be one that I cherish. 

Auf wiedersehen, 

Nishanth Sadagopan 

The Infamous Night Train

“You have to exit the train in 2 minutes!!!!!”

This is what I woke up to after riding the night train from Berlin to Munich. I had heard from past CR members that the night train was one to remember, but I honestly didn’t imagine it going quite like this. Our cabin had fallen back asleep and was completely oblivious to the fact that our stop was up next. We woke up in a panic to our (very angry) conductor aggressively telling us we had to leave the train as soon as possible. Bags went flying and coffee and tea were spilling everywhere as we chaotically ran off the train looking anything but graceful. It was truly a wonderful experience. So far, this has been the only transportation mishap while on CR, aside from getting on the wrong U-Bahn once or twice, so I would say we aren’t off to a bad start. While our group worked together to find our way around Berlin by using the transportation system, we were met with a few challenges (hence getting on the wrong U-Bahn). We knew we had to work together to overcome the language barrier and figure out a system that was foreign to us at first. But part of the fun of exploring the city is navigating and also getting lost and finding your way back to your destination.

Just a mere 12 hours before we boarded the infamous night train, we were wrapping up our time in Berlin! We began the day by all visiting the Reichstag, now known as the Bundestag. Visiting this at the end of the week allowed me to truly value its importance, because I had been learning about its history from the moment we got to Berlin. The German government has built a clear dome on top of the Bundestag to represent transparency with the government and the people, which Berlin should be commemorated for not turning its back on its history. We then had a few hours before boarding the, still incredibly infamous, night train.

Some of my favorite moments in Berlin have been the East Side Gallery and Treptower park, both visited on our second to last day in the city before moving on to Munich. East Side Gallery I enjoyed because Berlin has turned the Berlin Wall, which once represented something so ugly, into something beautiful while still remembering the wall and the history surrounding it. Treptower park was a favorite because I realized how naïve I was regarding the Soviet Union and its ties to Germany. The memorial in the park to honor fallen Soviet soldiers was extremely powerful and taught me a lot about history as well. There are many memorials to Soviet soldiers who were killed by the Germans, and yet the German government funds the upkeep of these memorials. Berlin continues to amaze me with its outlook on its history and their ability to face it head on.

But aside from my favorite sites in Berlin, the standout so far has been connection. Connection with those around me and building new purposeful relationships. While the wakeup on the night train was frantic, the talks we had before falling asleep were ones that I know brought us all closer as a team on CR. I am so thankful for everyone on this trip being unapologetically themselves!

*P.S. As a clarification, we made it off the train in plenty of time and have already decided our conductor was conspiring against us.

Respect and Responsibility – Berlin

Berlin, you are so blunt. Thank you for sharing your history with us!

Berlin has done an incredible job at distributing respect and responsibility to respective parties for important historical events. I’ve even had a difficult time trying to discern Germany’s own frame on its historical events because the memorials and museums seem so raw and unbiased with facts written out and even Germany’s own atrocities detailed. They don’t seem to hide much.

Beginning with responsibility, the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe are crafted in sleek, harsh, metal materials with clean, sharp edges, revealing blunt history with no blankets or frills to hide or exaggerate details. These memorials (paid for by the German tax payers) detail the German government’s mass murders, placing responsibility for many innocent deaths on German power. The Topography of Terror uses vast details to depict Hitler’s plans to create the perfect world and dispose of the unclean. The Germans are not afraid to face their past actions and take responsibility so unfortunate events are never allowed to repeat.

While admitting a large German responsibility for the murder of many Jews, Berlin also respects those who lost their lives for present Germany. This is insane. Berlin respects everyone from large groups to individuals.

The Museum to the Murdered Jews and Memorial to the Homosexuals give respect and a sense of citizenship to those whom the Germans in the Holocaust harshly persecuted and killed. Citizenship is now present where it was once taken away. With memorials to individual groups who were killed, Germany respects each individual life lost.

In Treptower Park, the Soviet Union’s win over Germany and individual Soviets’ deaths are extremely respected with the reverential landscaping and intricate craftsmanship. This is crazy to me! In Berlin, there are beautiful and rich memorials honoring Soviets who killed Germans, and these memorials are paid for and upkept by the Germans. The Soviet War Memorial even said the German soldiers helped refurbish the Soviet War Memorial. How crazy is that? These Germans are helping upkeep a memorial to Soviets who killed so many of their people. So much money, real estate and time are invested in respecting the past which is definitely not always in Germany’s favor.

By Germany taking responsibility for its actions and publicly giving massive respect to the Jews, Soviets, and all ostracized citizens, Germany entrusts its inhabitants to think for themselves, giving the inhabitants respect for the past and responsibility for the future.

I am beyond thankful to be entrusted by the German government, even as a visitor, to interpret the meaning of memorials. The openness to interpretation found in many memorials allows people to think about the meaning, not just be spoon-fed. This deep thinking allows me to better remember history behind lives lost. I believe when we expose the truth, we are able to learn from a situation so it won’t happen again.

In the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, Primo Levi says, “It happened, therefore it can happen again; this is the core of what we have to say.”

I want to walk in truth, confronting issues and learning from them so they don’t repeat.

Confronting failure is hard because first you have to admit to the failure, and that is hard. I especially hate to think I’ve failed, and while that may be just a part of my perfectionism, I also think there’s something in American culture that encourages us to push and push and push until we reach success; but sometimes you need to take a step back and expose your failure no matter how harsh it is so you can respect yourself, take responsibility and learn.

I know I have work to do in revealing my failures, and I believe the US has work to do in confronting our mistreatment of people – in internment camps, slavery, tribes and so on. When we expose our failures, we give respect and responsibility to whom it’s due, allowing us to learn from mistakes.

And taking this to a more individual level, wow have I been blessed with the best team ever! Bravo, you guys are incredible! Marat, Abby, Ryle, and Taylor, thank you for revealing how vulnerability with others opens opportunities to respect others even more. Each of you have been so vulnerable. Seriously thank you for sharing! I have learned from each of you and I respect each of you so much. Thank you for being so intentional. I am so thankful we get to entrust each other with the truth of our lives to learn and grow together.

Bravo Berlin!

With love,

Lauren Rasmussen

The Brutal Honesty of Berlin

Experiencing Berlin in this way has been one of the most incredible and humbling experiences of my life thus far. Not only am I experiencing a foreign country for the first time, but I am doing so in a place so rich with history that I have the opportunity to see firsthand the impact of the two World Wars and Nazism. I also have loved exploring a new country with new friends and establishing new relationships.

Day One: This day was so exciting for so many reasons! This day meant the beginning of our exploration of Berlin, the beginning of our friendships, and the beginning of Cultural Routes. My group explored the Soviet War memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, a panorama museum depicting Berlin as it looked with the wall up, Treptower Park, the Eastside Gallery, and Karl Marx Alley. The most fascinating part of this day was viewing WWII from an entirely new perspective – the Soviet perspective. In many textbooks of history, the discussions of WWII leave many details about the Soviet Union’s involvement out. However, between 25 and 27 million of the 55 million people killed in the war were citizens or military members of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a crucial factor in WWII, but it is easy to forget. One of the most fascinating things about Berlin is that it does not shy away from monuments and museums that portray every aspect of WWII, including the Soviet influence and impact in the war. Teptower Park was especially impactful. The symbolism in Treptower Park blew me away. The Soviet Union stares across to Mother Germany, holding the child Future of Germany in his arms, and crushing the swastika underfoot. Memorials like the Soviet War Memorial and Treptower Park serve as reminders that there are other sides of the story than the ones we consistently read in history books, and that there was suffering on all sides.

Day Two: Although this day was more centered around general German history, the most impactful moments for me were at the Berlin Wall Memorial. This memorial pointed out many facts I did not know about the Berlin Wall. For instance, I did not realize that there was a region between the West and East Walls in which booby traps, barbed wire fence, and inner walls were added to keep people out. The map of the memorial had dots spread across the map, pointing to exact locations of “incidents” where people died trying to get across. It put the desperation of the East Berliners into perspective; we stood on the ground that literally meant life or death to the people attempting to escape. Seeing the faces of those who died trying to cross the part of the Berlin Wall where we stood made it feel much more real, especially because many of the deaths were children. For the rest of the day, my group learned a lot about German history. We went to the German History Museum and the Berliner Dom, which was probably my favorite part of the day. The Berliner Dom has a beautiful cathedral, a crypt underneath, and a stairway up to the dome that provides a 360 degree view of the city.

Day Three: This was the most emotionally exhausting but most enlightening day of the three. We visited the Museum to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the accompanying memorial. Even the blunt, harsh names of the museum and memorial foreshadow the brutality of the information and stories enclosed within a single city block in the middle of Berlin. Words cannot accurately describe the heartbreak I felt in my soul when I learned the stories of fifteen Jewish families that were separated and murdered by the Nazis, when I read the letters, postcards, and death notes of men, women, and children about to be murdered in the extermination camps, and when I heard the grotesque personal testimonies of people that survived the horrors of the concentration camps. Witnessing these events brought our group together as we discussed and reflected upon what we saw in Tiergarten. These atrocities completely dehumanized millions of Jews as they were humiliated, tortured, and murdered just because of their beliefs. It is difficult to comprehend how people were able to commit these acts against their fellow man and laugh about it. We discussed the effects of extreme nationalism and how to handle this information through faith. Although we did do other activities that day, we bonded the most as a group because of our experiences in the museum and memorial.

By far the most fascinating part about Berlin is its humble honesty and refusal to shy away from the past. From building an empty library in the location where Nazis burned books at Bebelplatz to memorials portraying the deaths of East Berliners as they tried to cross the wall to dedicating an entire city block to the disgusting treatment and genocide of Jews, Germany does not attempt to hide its history. It embraces its past and portrays it in as many ways as possible to keep the memory alive. In the Museum to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a quote from Primo Levi is painted on the wall: “It happened, therefore it can happen again; this is the core of what we have to say.” I think we can all learn something from Berlin about honesty and accepting our flaws and mistakes. Without acknowledging our past, we have no hope of recovering and learning from our darkest moments. I am thankful that Berlin uses its past to teach others in order to prevent atrocities such as the Holocaust in the future.