Hello parents and friends of the Canadian Eastern Europe travelers!!
I have the extreme privilege of writing the blog post about the first day. So let's start from the beginning! Last night we all departed Logan at about 8:20pm. I had the middle seat in the middle row and got to sit next to Eddie and Mia. We all quickly learned that Lufthansa was an extremely amazing airline which provided 2 meals, snacks and drinks! On top of that, they had a stellar movie selection- I chose to watch La La Land before falling asleep.
We got to Munich at 9:30 am, which was only 3:30 am for you all back home!!! Let me just say, the Munich airport is beautiful!!! After laying over and having a great cup of German coffee, we took another flight to Berlin. This flight was only about an however, but I kid you not when I say that every single student was asleep! We then landed in Berlin and immediately boarded a bus to Wannsee Villa.
The Wannsee Villa is where Hitler and other important SS members made "the final solution" about what they should do with the Jews. The Villa was absolutely beautiful outside, along with a lot of all the other architecture in the area. Inside, there were a bunch of exhibitions about Nazi Germany- apparently the Wannsee Villa is a huge educational center in Germany. The room that struck me the most was the Quote room. There were quotes from holocaust survivors and Germans who stress the importance of telling the holocaust stories. There also were quotes from children and grandchildren of Nazi party members- one including Katrin Himmler, who we will talk to tomorrow. These quotes struck me the most because they discussed taking accountability for the Holocaust and having a responsibility to help spread the stories and accounts.
After soaking in those deep quotes, there was a beautiful garden in the back that I walked around in. I'm sure most of your kids took pictures so you have to see them!!!
We then went off to Mahnmal Gleis 17. This is an extremely powerful memorial in Berlin that tells the history of deportation of the Jews. The railroad tracks that were used to transport the Jews to the ghettos and concentration camps. Along the side there are dates of when trains departed, where their destination was, and how many Jews were on the train. This memorial was built by the railroad company, which in my opinion shows them taking some responsibility. I found some peace in knowing that the railroad company lets all the nature grow by itself on the tracks. There definitely are a lot of trees and flowers that surround the memorial.
Finally we went to the Bayerische Viertel which I found super cool. There were 2 artists who recently put up street signs with a picture and a law during the Holocaust. I thought that these were super cool and helpful so that everyday German citizens will never forget and that tourists are confronted with this history as well. I found that these street signs were in such clever locations. For example, we saw one with a play ground and the law was that Aryan and non-Aryan children could not play together; this was posted right outside of a children's park. There was another artist who came up with the Stolpersteine, which is the idea to commemorate someone who died in the Holocaust by putting a stone in the ground with their name, birthday, day of death and reason for death. There has been a lot of controversy with people living here and complaining about having to face this history. In my opinion, it doesn't matter. Germany has such history that, yes, it needs to be faced!!
To conclude, we went to a great dinner at Gustav and Gold. I had tomato soup, and then a fried mushroom and potato dumpling dish. It was really really good!
Ms. Freeman told me that you all were waiting for this blog post from the first day!! I hope it lives up to your expectations!! Comment and let me know what you think :-).
At 4 pm, we pulled into a road that led to a parking lot, to the right of us were rail road tracks. Before we got out we learned that this was the station the Jewish people were deported out of, sent to camps such as Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Along the railroad track, in reverse chronological order were words and letters inscribed on different individual plate. Each plate representing a different date, it stated the number of Jewish people deported and the destination of the specific train. As we walked along the path, and the years became earlier and earlier, the number os Jewish increased from 28 to a staggering 1700 at its peak. As we got closer to the beginning, the number of Jewish people being deported remained constant, 100. The gray sky and rain reflected what we were all feeling, sadness.
We realized that this place was the last time they saw they're own homeland before being sent to the ghettos or a concentration camp. The trees and vegetation remain untrimmed as it grows longer and longer, serving as a reminder to everyone that it will never be used for trains to travel on again. Near the end of the dates, stones were piled up high, along with stones placed in a heart and a candle in the middle to remember those that were murdered while being forced to take the journey.
Today was a challenging day for many of us. Our plane landed in Munich around 9:50 and I can promise that none of us got our full 8 hours last night. Half asleep we walked through the airport to our next gate. German airports are far nicer and far cleaner than ours; some even believed we could eat off the floors. Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to go find food in the airport and did not have to eat off the floor!! This airport has far more REAL food than you would ever find at Logan and a lot of it actually looked really good.
Next we boarded our flight to Berlin. This one was far better than the first one as it was only about an hour. At this point most people were too tired to stay awake and slept through this flight. When we arrived Berlin we grabbed our luggage and got right on a bus to go see the Wannsee Villa.
The Wannsee Villa was where senior officials of the Nazi party met on January 20, 1942 to decide on the "final solution" for Jews in Germany, though Hitler had already made this decision and this conference took place solely to keep blame away from Hitler. This was very cool for all of us to see, considering that Tuesday in class Ms. Freeman had us watch clips from a movie showing this conference. It was very interesting to see it for ourselves.
Next we visited Mahnmal Gleis 17 (track 17). This is a train track where between fall 1941 and spring 1942 many Jews boarded trains to be taken to Ghettos or extermination camps. We were given sometime here to walk the tracks, which have a lot of overgrown plant life to ensure they are never used again.
Finally, we visited a really beautiful neighborhood, the type of neighborhood you could spend hours walking around. When we were there we spent a lot of time looking at Stolpersteine, which are cobblestone sized brass plated engraved with the name and dates of a victim of Nazi extermination. They are small and not easily noticeable, but soon you see many around the neighborhood.
We checked into our hotel and tried to fight off jet lag until dinner (not all of us were very successful). We ate a really good dinner right across the street from the hotel and now I believe all my classmates and I are ready to sleep!