Today we got up at the early hour of 6AM. We departed from the hotel at 7:45 and made our way to Bauhaus.
We all took tours of Bauhaus and learned about the amazing architecture and history of the building and school. Everything from the doors to the lights to the type and placement of the chairs was carefully though out and it was incredible to learn about why everything looked the way it did.
After we departed Bauhaus, we drove to Bernburg. Here we stopped at the euthanasia center which is still part of a functioning hospital. We first talked about the history of the center which was used from 1940-1941 by the Nazis to brutally murder 9,384 old, ill and disabled people. We walked through the gas chamber where people were loaded into with the belief that they were to take showers. They closed off the chamber and pumped carbon monoxide into the room until everyone was dead. The Nazis could watch them die through a viewing window in the wall. Then the oven operators, called "Leichenbrennern" or "corpse burners", dragged the dead bodies through the dissecting room and then to the crematorium. In the dissecting room, doctors cut up marked bodies of people who either had gold teeth or were of scientific interest to the Nazis. The rest of the bodies were burned in the crematorium and a mix of random ashes were sent to the families of the deceased, along with a death certificate announcing a fake cause of death.
From Bernburg, we drove to the Buchenwald concentration camp outside the city of Weimar. The camp was filled mostly with Jews, homosexuals, Roma Sinti, and political prisoners. We also learned about the multiple layers of the camp. After the USA liberated the camp in 1945, the Soviets took control of the camp and created a secret POW camp [for German soldiers] on the outskirts of Buchenwald. They also used Buchenwald as a sort of propaganda site in Soviet-controlled Germany to say that Communists were mostly kept at the camp and Communists were the real martyrs of WWII and the Holocaust. We got to explore in small groups for 30 minutes before all waking through the crematorium of the camp. From there we drove into the city of Weimar to have dinner.
During dinner we all went through a buffet full of authentic German food. We all had the option to try sauerkraut, goulash or Thuringian potato dumplings which contained a singular crouton in the middle. Who knew? Everyone had a great time at dinner and had plenty to eat. From the restaurant we got back on the bus and headed on the three hour bus ride back to the hotel.
Overall, we had a great and tiring day. It was a lot to take in, but it was still incredibly interesting. That being said, I think everyone it still very much looking forward to a good night's sleep. I think I'll get a head start now on the bus.
This morning we visited the Bauhaus, an institution where people were taught to embrace and express themselves via art AND technology.
Can I just say WOW. It was incredible! Walter Gropius, the main architect who worked on the building was an outright genius. His methods of combining the beauty of art with the necessity of technology was absolutely brilliant, and it ignited such a passion in me that I squealed. Art here was thought of as a form of education and the value of it was beyond amazing. There was a theater as well and the way the curriculum was structured made it so that the performances were beneficial for the audience AND the performers because it required them to go through three stages of preparation that would enhance their educational experience! There was creativity in EVERY aspect of the building from the doors to the chairs to the colors painted on the walls! The Bauhaus was a breeding ground for brilliant pieces of art and architecture that highlighted the unique perspective of Gropius, and to be able to see a glimpse of our world through his eyes was an unreal experience.
Today we also visited a Euthanasia center where victims who were considered disabled, or unworthy of life, were murdered in gas chambers. One of the most bizarre aspects of this trip so far has been the somewhat disturbing reality of change over time. When visiting the euthanasia center, it was mind blowing to me how such terrible things took place on a site that was now so beautiful-it was almost as if Mother Nature had felt so personally disturbed by these practices that she put extra care into contravening them.
One thought I had as I went through the gas chamber at the euthanasia center, was the absurdity in the juxtaposition of the two places we had visited in the same day. Seriously, think about it. There was an architect, there was someone hired to construct these gas chambers. It was someone's job to make it look like a shower in order to fool the victims into a state void of paranoia. Then you compare it to the architecture found in the Bauhaus AND THE MOTIVATION AND IDEAS BEHIND THE FORMS OF TECHNOLOGY WERE SO DIFFERENT.
Overall, incredible experience!!!!!!
Hallo, lovely parents and fellow students! It is currently nearly 12am here in Berlin, but I bring to you a blog entry. Though this is not my assigned day, the amount of thoughts racing through my mind throughout today was too much not to record. Instead of just diving into one of my long-winded, seemingly endless rants, I will first start off by giving a brief outline of what we did today.
1. We woke up early (even for BLS students), ate breakfast, and hopped on the bus.
2. The bus brought us to the Bauhaus, an art historian's dream palace (ahem, Ms. Freeman).
3. We then went to Bernburg to visit the euthanasia center at the Stiftung Gedenkstätten Sachsen-Anhalt Fachklinkum.
4. Afterwards, we visited the Buchenwald concentration camp for (sadly) not as much time as needed to fully take in its meaning to an individual. But, one could argue that there really never will be enough time in the world anyway.
5. We then had a sort of wind down buffet dinner in Weimar where we talked of riddles, how insulting ketchup is in Germany, and non-alcoholic cocktails.
6. Finally, we got back on the bus for the long bus ride "home" while watching The Sound of Music. I would have preferred Frozen so I most definitely took a short nap until I heard everyone singing (or, trying to sing, as Ms. Freeman put it) which startled me out of my comfortable bus slumber.
The main focus of this blog post will be on the euthanasia center and the concentration camp that we visited, but I would like to say that the Bauhaus was exciting, even for an amateur (and I mean amateur in every sense of the word) art enthusiast like myself. Bauhaus used to be an art school that taught a mixture of craftwork and architecture focusing on functionality. Think industrial. It was located in three cities: Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin. It was essentially forced to be shut down by Nazis since it was seen as a place of American/Jewish influence and communist intellectualism. Bauhaus was really a place where a lot of modern architectural ideas were born, like using copious amounts of glass in buildings, a design clearly adopted by the U.S. Though the Bauhaus was both fun and educational, the next couple places that we visited were a lot more thought-provoking.
The bus drove us a long way to Bernburg where we were able to learn more about the euthanasia center where many were sent to die. I especially connected with this place and its history because several classmates and I did a project just a couple weeks ago on the disabled and euthanasia, or assisted suicide. I could go on and on about the questions that arose in my head whilst walking through the gas chamber, dissection room, and crematorium. But I will simply leave you with this: Two women denied jobs at the euthanasia center because they believed it to be too cruel. These same two women were never killed nor were they tortured. They chose to be autonomous. They chose to pave their own paths. Why didn't all of the other workers at the "hospital" do the same thing if they knew they were not going to be punished? They all had free will too—they all had a choice. Did fear of leadership and death really pay that significant of a role or were these workers really that unconcerned with what they were doing, especially if it raised their status in the industry and/or paid big money?
At the euthanasia center, I felt myself attempting to question the world's humanity and wondering where it had gone. Did it escape? Or did it disappear completely? Is it like the Law of Conservation of Matter, where it never really can be created nor destroyed, only recycled and conserved? Was there some sort of balance restored in the world at the same time that these murders were taking place, like a kind of divine justice? I think it would be a mistake to think that last one is true. I also think it's a mistake to say that these people were outliers of true humanity. Humanity isn't just the good. It's all the bad too. People like to distance themselves from Hitler, the Nazis, and their followers, but they were very much human. They weren't some weird "other race" nor did they all have mental problems or daddy issues. They were all people, just like you and me. Our race, the human race, did this. We have to realize that.
Even though all of these questioning were running through my mind at the euthanasia center, at Buchenwald, it was difficult to even consider humanity. To fully encapsulate the feelings that emerged from visiting Buchenwald would be outright impossible. For the sake of getting a decent night's rest, I will keep this shorter than I would like it to be as it is now 12:31am on the dot.
I cannot deny the beauty of the camp and its surrounding, though beauty may not be the right word. The contrast between what had been done there and how incredible the nature around it is just astounding. For once, I am at a loss for words. To walk through the camp and mentally complain about how cold my hands were was frustrating considering what the prisoners of the camp went through. I spent most of our time here comparing my own humanity with the ones who built the camp and ultimately coming to the decision that our humanity is the same. All of ours are. But it's what we do and think individually and as a group that changes what our humanity could mean in the future. There is just too much atrocity going on even today for me to consider that the humanity of the 1930s-40s did a complete 360 in less than a century. With that, I end this post. Gute nacht."
It's crazy to think that we've only been in Germany for 3 days, it feels like so much longer. Our day started with a 6 am wake up call, how fun. We left the hotel at promptly 8:15 so that we could get to our first stop on time.
Our first stop was Bauhaus. To be completely honest with you I am not an art person, it's just not my cup of tea. But it was really crazy to see Mrs. Freeman so excited about something. And I mean very excited. Kinda like a kid on Christmas morning. And seeing her so excited made me so excited. It was well worth the excitement. We received a tour from a guide whose "name in English" was Frank. He was so personable and obviously loved his job. We learned a lot about the history of the Bauhaus and he was really good at putting everything into perspective. What I mean is that some things we wouldn't think was very modern or anything special but then he would remind us about what was going on around this time in Germany. Everything looked very compact and very neat. It definitely surpassed my expectations and left everyone in a good mood. In the gift shop there was a little stamp table and all us BLS kids were getting these stamps. Thank you Isaac for my sick stamps that I can not wait to have to scrub off!
When we got back onto the bus we were all bustling about and laughing. For lunch we had sandwiches (either ham, salami, veggie or a salad) which were pretty good. While we were eating Mrs. Freeman came over the speaker to tell us that she was glad that we were all having fun but that the rest of the day would be sad and that we should prepare ourselves.
We then drove for about an hour to the Bernberg Memorial for the Victims of the Euthanasia program. This experience started by going upstairs into a little information section. Our tour guides name was Maxi. She knew a fairly good amount of English but would sometimes get confused with the translation of individual words from Germany to English. I worked on the Disabled for my Targeted Population of the Holocaust so I pretty much knew all the information she was telling us.
After we went into the basement we first went into the dressing room where they were told to undress before entering into the gas chamber. I already knew that they disguised the gas chambers but I was so surprised with how much it actually looked like a shower. Then we walked into the dissection room which contained a stone slab that was used as an operating table. The part that really got me was that there were two different colour tiles. Most of it was red tile but there was a little pathway with blue tile. When someone asked why that was, our tour guide answered saying that the blue tile yeah. The part that got me the most is that we walked into the "medical examination" room (where the doctors would dissect the people) and then there was like the regular tile and then a different tile which was the path that they used to drag the bodies and it became slippery when wet so they could more easily drag the bodies. Then we entered the room where the oven would have been that was surrounded with pictures of people who were killed there.
Our last stop for the day was Buchenwald Memorial Concentration Camp. We received an audio tour and was given 40 minutes (which wasn't nearly enough). I walked around with a small group of people and there wasn't much talking. We all just kind of walked around in silence, and we all just kind of understood each other and there was no need for words. We walked around into the extensive infirmary which we thought was ironic because they had so much space for medical help but gave no one medical help. We spend more time walking around as a full group before going back into the bus.
We drove to the time of Weimar and had a buffet dinner at Hanz and Franz. It was a good way to end a difficult day.
"Bauhaus", more like "completely ordinary house". At least, that's what some people have been saying. However, those people are mere plebians. They lack a certain level of sophistication that is required in order to fully appreciate the architectural and artistic beauty of this historic landmark. I pity them. Bauhaus was, simply put... magnificent. The chairs- so screwless, the doors- so black, the floor- so smooth, the bau- so haus. Truly wonderful. It was enough to bring even the most solemn of teachers to tears. I had to take a few minutes to compose myself. Every minute detail in that building represented countless hours of careful and thoughtful deliberation. I think that Ms. Freeman summed up the Bauhaus the best when she very eloquently said "YEEEESEYEEESYESSSSSYEEEESEYEEES".
Though the Bauhaus was fun, the mood quickly took a somber turn when we got the the Bernburg Euthenasia Memorial. We learned about the way in which the disabled were forcibly euthenized during the Nazi era. I felt pretty sick when I was standing in the gas chamber. I felt dizzy. I didn't really know what to make of it exactly. I've never stood in a place like that. I could never fathom a reason why a place of that nature should ever have to exist. That's really all I have to say about that place.
After that we went to Buchenwald, a concentration camp in Germany. It wasn't a killing camp, but it was a labor camp. People would either die from starvation or they would die from exhaustion. Conditions in this camp were inhumane. When we went there today, there was hardly anything left there. If I hadn't know that it was a concentration camp, I would've thought that it was just a pile of rocks just what it looked like. It's so hard to imagine the horrors that took place within this gate. For the most part, we walked in silence. Nothing could be said. No words could be said to make it better. As someone who likes to talk a lot, I was shocked to find myself at a loss for words. The crematorium was sick and creepy. That's really all there is to say about it. I kept wondering how someone could justify such horrific actions, but I still had no words.
After all that we watched "The Sound of Music". It was awful. I wish the hills would shut up tbh.
That's really all I have to say about today.