Hola! As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent this past weekend in Germany!! It was so much fun. Berlin has a lot of interesting things to see, I am so glad I went. The easiest way to talk about the trip I think is to go through my pictures, so I will just do that. 🙂
The hostel we stayed at! It was really nice, we had a good time!
Breakfast was 4 euro, and it was just a cold breakfast buffet, it was perfect for what we needed.
The first day, Friday, we did a guided tour to a concentration camp (Sachsenhausen) which is about 40 minutes out of Berlin. It was a very good experience. Sachsenhausen was at the time considered to be the “perfect” camp, it was shaped in a triangle so that you could have a guard in one spot (you can kind of see where the semi circle goes around in the picture) and be able to see everything in the 180 degrees. It was a model camp, others were constructed to look like it. This was a concentration camp, and not a death camp like Auschwitz. They believe that 35,000 people were murdered here in the years of operation under the Nazis. What was surprising to me, was that after the war the Soviets took over the camp and used it for the prisoners of war, and actually murdered another 12,000 people there.
This white building was the main watchtower, building A, also the entrance.
“Work will set you free.” This is quite awful, because it truly means that through the hard work you would be “set free” in death. At Sachsenhausen the goal was to get as much labor out of the prisoners before they either died or were sent to a death camp to be “exterminated.”
When the Soviets had the camp they actually destroyed a lot of the buildings, so there aren’t many of the barracks left. There were a couple left to see, though. They aren’t going to rebuild the barracks because that would be rebuilding what the Nazis created, which just isn’t something they want to do.
Where the barracks stood they now have gravel pits outlining them, with a simple label in memory of those who ‘lived’ there.
They have one of the remaining barracks there to see, and another one is kind of a small museum.
I believe these barracks were designed to house 160 people, but I guess they averaged a lot more than that and at times some had as many as 400 people. I can’t imagine the living conditions.
The next few pictures are from the prison within the walls of the camp, and that is where they had kind of high profile people, whether they be dangerous or possibly had information that the nazi’s wanted. They had walls around the prison to sort of tell the rest of the prisoners that “it could be worse..” I guess it installed more fear into them because they couldn’t see what was behind the wall, but they knew it was bad because they could hear when people were being tortured.
People in the prison had it quite opposite to those outside, they lived in total solidarity in these little cubes as the nazi’s tried to break them down.
This was one of the more public displays of physical torture in the prison section..they would tie their hands behind their backs, and then hang them by their hands, I’m sure you can imagine their shoulders coming out of socket….it’s quite gruesome. When they would pass out eventually they would do what they can to keep them awake.
This was a memorial that the Soviets I believe constructed for the camp…however it wasn’t made very well. It only recognized some of the groups of people who suffered, and failed to acknowledge others.
The next two pictures are from building Zed (Z). It was constructed in 1942/43 I believe (I think the camp opened in 1938), and it was named so because it was an extermination building, or the last place the prisoners would go….Remember they started in building A?? Yeah, it’s pretty sick. They built this building when they received a ‘shipment’ of 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war. You can imagine this is a large quantity of people..and they didn’t have the room or need of them. But, exterminating that many people discretely became a problem, and this was their solution. This was a new invention here at Sachsenhausen, and other camps used it after. Basically, the prisoners would go in one by one expecting a medical exam. They first went into a waiting room, and then they went into a room to strip down for a “physical exam,” and then went into another room for “measurements.” They did the physical exam part so they could check there mouths for gold teeth discretely. The next room, for “measurements,” they were told to stand with their back to the wall next to a measuring stick. What they didn’t know was that there was a hole in the wall with a soldier behind it, and they were shot in the head/neck when they did this. Then, a Jewish prisoner (Jewish because they were given the worst jobs) would come grab the body and clean the blood for the next victim to come in. They then burned the bodies and disposed of the remains. That is how they did it one by one, 10,000 soldiers in 10 weeks. It was actually quite genius (not that I condone it), because everyone complied with them because of the deception and it gave the nazis the least amount of contact as they were doing the killing so they psychologically weren’t as affected. The actual killer never saw the victims. Plus, the room was double walled to prevent sounds and they played classical music in case of the noise.
This is the operating room in the medical building. I thought it was pretty awesome. They didn’t do many of the crazy medical testing that you hear of from other camps. They only thing like that that took place here was some testing with Hepatitis C, and that was done with 11 boys who were selected from Auschwitz. They actually all lived through the Holocaust; being selected kind of saved their lives. They were also they only children to ever come to Sachsenhausen, as it was an all men camp.
This was right outside the walls of the camp, a peaceful place where the nazi workers would reside.
All in all the concentration camp was a very somber experience, and I’m so glad I went. Our tour guide was great; I learned so much. Once we returned to the city, we just kind of walked around for a while and saw some of the newer parts of the city. Berlin is still being united (Remember the wall was just taken down in 1990, only 24 years ago), so there is a lot of construction being done and a lot of newer buildings and centers.
Berliner beer and currywurst!! Can’t get more Berlin than that! It was really tasty! Basically a really good brat served drenched in ketchup and a sauce, and of course french fries!
After some exploring we returned to the hostel, rested a little, and then got ready to hit a couple of the local bars. It was a good night!
This was a beach themed bar, they really went all out with the theme, you walked into a sandy room with palm trees, lights, and fruity delicious drinks!
It is legal to drink in the streets, so people would just have some music and hang out in open areas.
The following day, we decided to use the same tour company and did a free city walking tour for the morning. We met here at the Brandenburg Gate! It was an awesome tour as well. We walked around for 3 hours and saw a lot of the main attractions and learned a lot about the history of Berlin.
The gate at night was so pretty all lit up!
Humboldt University where Einstein studied. He was pretty smart, as he went to the USA in 1936 for a conference and never returned to Berlin…he was Jewish and may not have made it through the nazi reign.
Another part of Humboldt University, but this is the plaza where the famous burning of the books took place.
In the plaza they have this really simple memorial to the tens of thousands of books that were destroyed and to the culture and literature that was lost. It is hard to see, but when you look down in the ground it is a plain all white room filled with white, empty bookshelves. I found the simplicity pretty powerful.
On the left hand side is a quote by a German poet/writer Heinrich Heine. It was written in the early 1800’s, well before the nazi’s, and was actually about the Spanish Inquisition, however it is hauntingly more fitting for the Holocaust.
“Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.”
“That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.”
The following pictures are from the memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is very intriguing. It doesn’t have much as far as writing or markers goes. It is just a very large area (4.7 acres) with these cement slabs, all lined up. There are 2,711 slabs to be exact. And we really don’t know any significance to that number, the architect hasn’t really said much about the design, other than it is supposed to disorient you. So, as you walk through this, the slabs get to be pretty tall, and it could be easy to get lost in. They are all different heights, and other than that they all pretty much look the same. However, if you look really closely, you can see that some of them are ever so slightly crooked or slanted one way or another. Also, the ground under them is hilly and random, you have to watch your step. And that’s it.
After we walked through it, our tour guide asked us what we though about it, and we talked about what some of the theories are. I thought it was really interesting so I’m going to share my thoughts:
When you look at it at first glance, they are all standing in a row and look the same. This reminds me of what role call would have been like in the concentration camps, as they had to stand for hours on end, all looking the same from the way they were ‘dehumanized’ by the nazi’s. However, if you look really closely, I personally think that no two blocks have the same dimensions, which signifies that everyone is unique even if you try to take that away. Also, the slabs kind of remind me of the amount of space a grave would take up, so it’s like they are standing in their graves at role call.
Some things the tour guide mentioned is that when you walk through it, they are too narrow to walk side by side with someone, you must go through it alone. Also, as the architect said, it disorients you going though it because it is just so strange. I think that these are things that the victims probably felt so it is really interesting. A little girl actually lost her parents when we were there and was crying hystarically, and it was a good example I think of what you feel going through it…she did find her parents, so that was good. Other people said it reminded them of the train cars lined up that the victims arrived in. Another said that the blocks all being different heights could signify all of the different ages of the victims, as everyone was targeted from infants to the elderly.
Anyway, it was all very interesting to me, and it really made me think and reflect, which is I believe the purpose of the whole thing.
About a block or so past the last memorial, we came across this building/parking lot/grassy area. Our tour guide was telling us that it was typical Soviet architecture, and it was the fanciest of the fanciest communist buildings built during their reign. We were walking up and ended on the grassy area by the parking lot, when she informed us that we were actually standing over Hitler’s bunker. I would have never known had I just walked by. There isn’t really any indication of it, nothing remains, it is gone. This is where Hitler made many big decisions, where many meetings were held, where he lived, where he got married, and where he killed himself. Twice (he used poison and a gun, because he was paranoid that because of his Parkinsons he wouldn’t successfully get the job done with the gun.). I would consider the place to be a pretty significant historical location, but they decided to blow up the bunker and not recognize it in order to not make a shrine out of Hitler’s death place. I thought that was fascinating that just one block away was a huge monument, and here there was absolutely nothing.
The double brick line in the road is where the Berlin wall once was. They have it all around the city where the wall is no longer.
One of the three remaining original segments of the wall.
This building was originally a Nazi structure, but the soviets added this mural promoting communism when they were in reign of East Berlin.
The plastic cars they had to use in East Berlin while the wall was up.
Checkpoint Charlie! Where military and other people had to go to get through the wall. It has the picture of an American soldier staring at East Berlin, always keeping an eye on them.
Drawing I liked at our break in the tour…at Starbucks.
Some churches and the concert house.
The TV tour!
After the tour we got some lunch at a nice German restaurant, called Emma’s! It was delicious! Gotta love that German food, meat and potatoes!
After lunch we went over to the East Side Gallery, which is the largest remaining portion of the Berlin wall along the river, and it is also the largest outdoor art gallery. It was huge and there were so many paintings!
And then we have the great JT lookin’ over the wall.
Said ‘hello’ to the Captain.
Souvenirs for the fam 🙂
One of the bars we went to. It was interesting, Jana met a friend. We met a guy from Russia in our hostel, so us three ventured out Saturday night to a few bars, it was really fun!! We had some good beer and experienced a few very different bars! We got back to the hostel at 2:30 am, and we had to get up to go to the airport at 4:00am….needless to say it was a rough day of traveling. But, you know what they say! YOLO!
Bears are the mascot of Berlin, they were everywhere.
I now just want to state that I have literally been working on this post for hours. Whoofda! It was a lot of working going through all of those pictures!! I hope you enjoyed.
I had a great time in Berlin. I was successfully able to navigate through the crazy jibberish German streets, the S/U bahn system (which is impressively intricate I must add), and was mistaken for an actual German several times. I felt like I was getting yelled at by strangers, but no, I guess they were just trying to talk to me in their rather harsh language….idk if I could get used to that!
Berlin was definitely a fun city to visit. I loved all of the history. So many things have been blown up and reconstructed…..it’s crazy! It was also really interesting for me because a lot of the places I’ve visited like Rome/Pompeii and Southern Spain most of the buildings and history are like hundreds or even thousands of years old, whereas a lot of the things in Berlin were in the last century or so. It’s weird to think that a lot of this happened in my parent’s and grandparent’s lives, and almost my life as the wall was just taken down in ’90, a few years before I was born.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I know I added a lot of narrative to it, but it was stuff I learned that I want to remember and this is kind of my diary I am using and choosing share of my experiences.
This week I don’t have much going on. I revised my budget, so I can’t really have much going on anymore……haha 🙂 On Friday we have a horse back riding activity with the program, so that should be fun!
Bis später (don’t ask me how to pronounce it I learned I’m terrible at that),