Blogging our way through Eastern Europe
Wednesday April 11--day 1
Gutentag everyone! We started our super long day today in Munich when we landed at the airport at 9:15 am. Yikes! Some unidentifed sources cough cough Charlie cough cough decided to eat sausages at the equivalent of 4am Boston time... quite interesting. Next we got on our flight to Berlin and finally got a whiff of the fresh foreign air when we got outside.
This is the first time I have ever been outside of the country so it was quite an exhilarating experience! It was really sunny and beautiful and warm, completely unlike the Boston weather right now (sorry to shove it in :)).
We hopped on a bus and our first stop was to Gleis 17 (Track 17), a train station track in the western Berlin neighborhood of Grünewald. There was a memorial there for all the Jewish people that got put onto trains from here going to different concentration camps and ghettos, including Auschwitz, Krakow, and Riga. The memorial went along the tracks and identified the date these trains departed from the station, number of people, and their destination. I found it really interesting when Ms. Freeman pointed out that there were houses RIGHT next to this station, emphasizing the possibility that these people must’ve had an idea of what was going on since nothing about this operation was very camouflaged. We also ran into a tour guide that pinpointed how her grandfather was actually on one of these specific trains and was later killed. I found it incredible that she knew such specifics about her grandfather since Germans kept such tight records, which makes it all the more strange that there were actually a few train carts in the beginning whose destination was “Unknown.”
Next we went to the Wannsee Villa, where the Wannsee Conference took place led by Reinhard Heinrich. Inside was a whole museum filled with amazing information, a lot of which I was unaware of, even after everything we’ve learned so far. The most surreal part about this little trip was the fact that we were standing in the actual building where Nazis voted in favor for the Final Solution of the Jewish Question to be carried out. It was just like a vacation house on a beautiful lake, which Mr. Gavin said is a big spot for Berliners to go to the beach when the weather is nice (he’s been there too, of course!).
Lastly, we stopped in a Berlin neighborhood where we searched for stepping stones, which were little mini remembrances for specific people that lost their lives due to the Holocaust. The location of these stepping stones, which were goldish placards set straight into the cobblestones, was representing the last known location that these people were seen at which I thought was really incredible, especially because we kept finding them everywhere throughout this neighborhood. There was also a memorial in this neighborhood which was shown through signs on lamp posts- one side had an image and the other a German sentence. I found it interesting how strategically all of these signs were placed in reference to the rest of the community (for example, there was a sign talking about how Aryan and non-Aryan children were no longer allowed to play with one another and this was directly next to a children’s playground).
After finally arriving to our hotel, we only had a hot second to drop off our luggage before going out to dinner at the Beer Garden restaurant. The food was delicious and it was super fun because they were playing live music and all of the BLS kids were dancing along with other European kids! (S/o Abdul for the nice moves) We got back to our hotel and everyone was exhausted as we attempted to set up our little Samsung phones which were not cooperating so well. Looking forward to the next few days in beautiful Berlin and then we’ll be off! Farewell :)
Wow! You are having such incredibly full days. It’s great that you can experience the history and the present in Berlin at the same time.
Olivia, Wow, what an amazing way to spend your first time out of the US. It sounds like you are really taking it all in and getting so much out of your experience. Enjoy!
Olivia you and all of your BLS classmates are experiencing great and new adventures. You are experiencing and seeing things that one day you will use to make and change the world for the better!
Thank you Olivia for sharing with us your first day abroad! I love that the three of you that have written about Day 1, have mentioned the dance after dinner with other European kids. In a trip that so intensely makes you come to terms with the human face of what happened there, it is good to also allow yourselves to have some fun, and have the opportunity to share conversation with students from other countries.
I think facts, like the homes next to the train station and the stepping stone memorials, are what make your experience more impactful. You are all walking where so many innocent and good people walked for the last time and where others watched helplessly as "the final solution" unfolded.
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