This week we had the privilege of traveling to Berlin, Germany where we were able to explore all the different sides of Berlin. Our study abroad program had setup some activities for us to do while in Berlin to really help give us a better understanding of European history, culture, and it’s influence on the rest of Europe including The Netherlands. It was definitely an intense yet inspiring experience to learn in-depth of Berlin’s history both dark and hopeful for the future.
Tour of Berlin
On our first day in Berlin we embarked on a walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was super cool and knew his history of the city. We passed by so many beautiful structures and spaces that are rich with Germany history both plagued from the effects of war times and in the beauty of hope for the future of the people and the country. It was amazing to see that even after centuries all the beautiful architecture was still standing strong! Our tour guide pointed out that most of the buildings were all patched up from bullet holes from the devastation of war times in Berlin. It was quite surreal to be standing and walking in these spaces that not even 100 years ago were a completely different world for the people and the country. We even passed by the Berlin Wall where our guide shared the history of the wall’s construction and the wall’s destruction. We stood at and learned about checkpoint Charlie where during wartimes was one of the most controversial checkpoints for the standoffs between American soldiers and both German and Soviet soldiers.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
When approaching this memorial we weren’t quite able to figure out what it was at first because it did not have any markings or signs stating what we were looking at or what this structure was. This structure which is the size of a whole city block consists of hundreds of concrete blocks all different shapes and sizes. The structure is a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. The guide shared with us the artist’s motive and vision behind the blocks. The blocks themselves are the size of Israeli graves representing graves of the Jewish people who were viciously murdered during WWII and the Holocaust.
The next day we all went to the Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg. This is the site of a former concentration camp during WWII. I did not take any pictures during this visit out of respect for what was done to the tortured souls who were incarcerated at this camp. From the moment I walked on to the compound I could feel this heavy feeling. The energy was deep and heavy and it was as if I could feel the pain that still lingers from the site. They had a few of the barracks reconstructed at the camp so we saw what conditions people were forced to live in while incarcerated at this camp. It also broke my heart to learn about the types of people who were incarcerated at this camp who were not convicted of committing crimes. It was based off a hierarchy system where at the top it was political prisoners who were the political opponents of the Nazi Socialist Party. Next were people who were actually arrested for committing crimes and last were people who were Jewish, homosexual, and did not “fit” into the Nazi society. That is what really hit me was that people were arrested and incarcerated at that camp just for being themselves and not “fitting” into the Nazi society. To think about the times in which the country was living in when this camp was opened was really scary. There was even a site where people were burned alive. Visiting this place really gave me a new perspective of what was going on during these times. To really stand where so many suffered just made me feel the magnitude of the importance for fighting for what is right in the world. To fight for humanity and manifest and honor the goodness in people. It is so important to heal the traumas of our past and to learn from them. To see what evils humans are capable of makes it so much more imperative to be the good we wish to see in the world and hope others to the same.
I really hope that all the people who were held in these camps and who were affected by the Holocaust and the evils done by the Nazis find peace and healing. I hope those who have passed on are now resting in peace and power.
Art in Berlin
Each day after completing the activities that were planned for us we had some free time to explore other parts of the city. On this day my friend and I went to explore this private collection of Salvador Dali art at the Dali Museum in Berlin. I have never seen a Dali piece in person so it was AMAZING to be able to see so many pieces, many I did not even know existed before visiting the museum! Dali is one of my favorite artist and I felt extremely privileged to be able to explore this space and take some pictures of a few of my favorite pieces! Out of the whole private collection my favorite pieces were from the Alice in Wonderland collection. It was a beautiful mix of one of my favorite books and one of my favorite artists. It was really inspiring to see Dali express himself and his journey as an artist evolving as a painter of surrealism.
The Spy Museum
One of the activities that were planned for the people in the Psychology and Neuroscience program, the program I am in, was checking out the Spy Museum! It was actually really cool, this space was filled with everything that has to do with spying. Most of it was organized in chronological order so it was like spy history through the ages. There was a bunch of spy gadgets it was really cool to see the evolution of spy technology from Sputnik to hidden compartments in cigarettes, shoes, belts, watches, and even spy cameras in eye glasses. We learned about the different agents and how the world of spying was created and used throughout time. There was even a laser maze which of course I tried to make it through! It was like a look in to the world of 007!
A Walk through Berlin’s Dark Past
During another free time excursion my friend and I went to go check out the Berlin Story Bunker. It was a very intense experience for me which affected me so deeply I could not even finish walking through the exhibit. It was basically the history or Hitler, the Holocaust, and WWII. It started with Hitler’s birth how he came to Germany, how he rose to power, and how he used his influence to bring about the Holocaust and his destruction in WWII. We made it through halfway to where it began to talk about the Holocaust before leaving. Learning about what and how the country transformed into being a people that would accept or turn a blind eye to the horrors that were being done by the Nazi Socialist Party was very unsettling for me. As we began to walk through the times of the beginning of Holocaust I couldn’t help but draw parallels to what is being done today in America against migrants seeking help and immigrants of color.
Being from California where there is a large Latinx population and being of Latin decent my family, my friends and myself are being affected by the xenophobia, bigotry, racism and hatred plaguing our country right now. To see the horrors that were made in Germany against the innocent people of Germany by hateful men like Hitler and his Nazis has me quite worried and scared for the future of my people.
Before coming to Berlin; before physically being here learning about all the horrors done here I didn’t think too deep into the connections of what is happening back home. To feel this pain and seeing the same beginning that happened here happening right now back home has just left me feeling my heart so heavy. Again stressing the importance of finding humanity among us all and not turning a blind eye to the horrors that are possible at the hands of hate filled hearts.
Former Stasi Prison
On our last day in Berlin we went to the old Stasi Prison not too far from the city center. It was quite triggering for me to be in this space and to learn about how the Stasi would kidnap people and incarcerate them here. The people targeted by the Stasi weren’t just people convicted of crimes but also people who would challenge the Stasi and people who were opposing the crimes against humanity done by the Nazis. It was very disturbing how there was a whole system in place to oppress people on such a huge scale from the concentration and death camps, prisons, to the psychological warfare being done to so many innocent people. It is very worrisome that this actually happened in human history and the more I make connections between the system in place back in the states the more I worry for the future of myself, my people, and all the innocent kind hearted souls in the world.
The Berlin trip was definitely a learning experience. What I really took in from everything I experienced was the need for love, peace, humanity and standing up for what is right. Now more than ever.