After I had been in Warsaw for three days with my class we packed up and boarded a six hour train to Berlin for the other half of the week. On our first day in Berlin we got a walking tour of the city, stopping most notably at the Berlin Wall, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the Reichstag. We went inside the Reichstag, the German parliament building, and had lunch at the fancy restaurant at the top of the building, giving us spectacular views of the city. The characteristic glass dome on top of the Reichstag, can be climbed and when you look down, you can see into the parliament below. At one point our tour guide took us behind an apartment building, and walked off a specific number of paces from two different points. He then told us that five meters below the exact position in which he was standing was where Hitler committed suicide in his bunker. There was no marker or sign on that location, but a couple of hundred feet away there was a board explaining that this was where Hitler’s bunker had been located. Our tour guide explained that he had done considerable research to figure out the exact location. Today it is simply the backyard of an apartment complex, with a children’s sandbox almost on the exact spot of where the suicide took place. There is no plaque or sign marking the location, because the government did not want the spot to become a Neo-Nazi shrine. Until 2006, there was no sign at all and many residents had no idea what lay below the ground of their apartments.
To end the day, we went on a canal tour of Berlin at sunset. I had no idea that Berlin had such an extensive canal system. After the sun set, the temperature dropped and reminded me of Maine fall weather. The weather in Copenhagen had been significantly milder than in Berlin, which surprised me at first but then I remembered that its on the coast.
The next day we spent most of the day in and out of various museums, all concerned with WWII and the Holocaust. In the afternoon, I visited the East Side Gallery which features a large non-continuous portion of the Berlin Wall covered in graffiti art. After much effort, we found the famous image of the fraternal kiss between Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union, and Honecker, the leader of East Germany. The artwork depicts the 1979 photograph of the two men showing the close bond between the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union during the 30th anniversary of the founding of the GDR.
On the final day in Berlin, we stopped in Wannsee, a suburb outside of Berlin, to visit the villa where the Wannsee Conference took place. The Wannsee Conference occurred in 1942, and was where the Nazi high command decided to move forward with the implementation of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. The villa blends in with the other houses in the quiet neighborhood, seemingly indifferent, yet contains a dark history in which the Nazis hatched their brutal plan of mass genocide.
I enjoyed my three days in Berlin, but again I wish I had more time to walk around and explore the city on my own. Our days were rather full of academic visits and scheduled museum visits, but this is to be expected as it was school trip.