Our second day in Berlin was just as full as our first. We began our day at Bayerischer Platz, an area in Berlin where Jews were forced to move out of their homes by the Nazis. We visited this area because it has a very unique memorial to commemorate and lament the draconian laws forced upon Jewish Berliners. Throughout the area there are small square icon-like pictures that are meant to evoke the children’s game “Memory”, where each icon corresponds to a measure or law forced upon Jews. This poignant memorial is a constant reminder of the restricted life of Jews in Nazi Germany, and each icon represents freedoms taken away from Jews. We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase the books that explain all of the icons, and our teachers are hoping to develop a classroom activity using these signs.
We left for Brandenburg Gate, the iconic symbol of Berlin where Robert Jan van Pelt gave a brilliant lecture about the gate’s place in German history. Throughout time the gate has taken on many different meanings. Professor van Pelt peeled back the layers of history of the gate for us, and we were able to see how closely the tangible gate is intertwined with the intangible idea of the German Spirit. Brandenburg Gate was even a symbol of German Nationalism before Germany became a unified state. The Nazis also perceived the gate as a symbol of German Nationalism, and when they won the January 30, 1933 election they marched through Brandenburg Gate as a way to reinforce the Nazi party as the backbone of German strength and power.
We then had some free time to look at the gate and reflect on Professor van Pelt’s lecture, which illuminated for our group so many facets of modern German history.
Following this we went to the Jewish Museum in Berlin, a museum that chronicles the history of German Jews from their arrival in Germany in the late 9th century through the modern age. The museum’s architecture, designed by Daniel Libeskind, seeks to tell the story of the German Jewish experience.
Our group then departed Germany on a train to Poland, where the second leg of our trip would commence.