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THURSDAY 9TH MARCH- ‘WILLKOMMEN IN DEUTSCHLAND’

With the joys of a 3:00am start, a coach took a surprisingly energetic twenty five of us to

Luton airport, where after a one and half hour flight we arrived in the cultural and historical

city of Berlin. Situated within a five minute walk of the Central Berlin Hauptbahnhof station,

and the sites of the Brandenburg Gate and the impressive Reichstag, our hotel was in a

prime location. Visiting these mentioned sites first instantly subjected us to the intricate detail

and overwhelming beauty of the poignant structures, which was reflected throughout the

architecture of the city. Our afternoon was spent at the House of the Wannsee Conference,

the place in which the final solution was decided (the mass murder of Jews in German-

occupied Europe). The villa, overlooking a reservoir, was far from the building many of us

expected to see, hard to imagine that a structure with such grandeur could be the place in

which planned such tragedy. A local tour guide led us through the various rooms, informing

us about the dreaded solution and the hour and a half conference that decided the fate of

millions of innocent people. The evening was a time for us to first truly embrace the vibrant

culture of the German city, with free time to experience the culinary delights, attempt the

native language and reflect on the day.

FRIDAY 10TH MARCH- A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE

Day two saw us mentally prepare for what was only going to be an emotionally tasking day.

Sachsenhausen concentration camp was our intended destination, although twenty miles

outside of the capital Berlin, this camp was by no means hidden, situated at the end of what

seemed like a typical German street, surrounded by houses, certainly not the expected area

you would think such a horrific place would be. The walk to the entrance of the camp was

one of almost silence, any previous chatter suppressed by the introductory talk we had

before entering the grounds. We were told that the same walk we were doing was one done

by hundreds of thousands of prisoners before us. It was at that point a numb feeling took

over my body, enhanced by the crisp cold winds almost reflecting the sombre atmosphere of

the camp. I will never forget the first steps through the gates of the camp with the words

‘Arbeit macht frei’ or ‘work sets you free’ looming over the gate. It was at this point a feeling

of guilt set in due to the thought of us being able to leave the camp after the tour was over,

knowing that many who had to entered the same gates never did. I also realised that

although we were walking in together, each of us was experiencing and reflecting on  the

camp alone.  

Our tour guide, I imagine, having delivered many similar tours still spoke to us in a way that

was full of emotion, still captivated by the effect the events that happened here still had on

her. The horrors of Sachsenhausen stay with you, forever. The outside was empty almost

conveying the loneliness of those who were brought there, each barrack that once would

have stood marked by areas of stones, whereas the remaining buildings such as the medical

room, barracks, crematorium and trench each gave a clearer view of the true horrors of the

camp, showing the medical experiments, awful living conditions and stark reality of what

happened to so many prisoners that were sent there. However, the rawest emotions came

from the sight of the remaining belongings that were displayed including names tags and

soles from shoes, which impacted me the most as it was unimaginable to think that a piece

of material had lasted longer than its owner. It makes anyone question how something like

this could ever be allowed to happen. The final room left a lasting message, it was filled with

cloth that had the faces of prisoners upon them, printed on both sides. This stylised way of

presenting the images meant that from each area of the room you were surrounded by

faces, eyes always on you. I will this find hard to forget as it embodied the injustice of these

people.

Evening came around, and we returned to the central station. The effects of what we had all

experienced at Sachsenhausen still noticeably apparent. At this point we were once again

allowed to discover more of the city we had all grown to love, and some friends and I went

for dinner in a small themed restaurant, our waiter reinforcing the amicable nature of the

people of Berlin. From, this we all congregated in the hotel sharing our experiences of the

day, each slightly different from the next, as everyone felt something unique. Overall, it was

a day that can only be described as life changing.  

SATURDAY 11TH MARCH- ‘IT HAPPENED THEREFORE IT CAN HAPPEN AGAIN’

On our last full day in Berlin, we visited the Holocaust memorial, the Berlin Wall or what was

left of it and the Topography of Terror. The Holocaust memorial was a stylised tribute to

those who had been so tragically killed, without mercy. It was respectable and clearly

poignant to those it was remembering but yet tasteful to those who live in the city and see

the grey structures as part of their everyday lives. ‘It happened therefore it can happen

again’ was written on the wall in the underneath museum of the memorial, this alongside a

recording of all the stories of those that lost their lives during the Holocaust inflicted a sense

of anger for many as it seems unfathomable that people could go ahead with an action so

inhumane as this. Visiting the Berlin Wall gave us a clearer understanding of the divide that

was created between the East and West sides of Berlin.  Hearing the stories of those who

tried to defy this oppression enabled us to get a sense of the hardships that people faced

during this time. That evening we had been given the opportunity to go up the Reichstag

building. The top, a canvas to the breathtaking view of Berlin at night, with mesmerizing

images of this cultural place, definitely an uplifting experience to end the night compared to

what we had seen the past few days.

SUNDAY 12TH MARCH- ‘AUF WIEDERSEHEN BERLIN’

The Olympic stadium of 1936 was the first place we visited on the last day. Incidentally it

was also the first place that we had been to which we had known evidence that Adolf Hitler

had once visited and this realisation held great impact. We had to comprehend that the

atrocities we had seen over the past three days had been planned and implemented by a

man that once stood where we were right then and there. Following this we visited an

underground bunker, the tour enabling us to experience what it would've been like for people

when air raids occurred and the small areas that people would shelter to be protected. From

this we returned one last time to our hotel and were given one last period of free time to

immerse ourselves within this diverse city before heading home. The flight back although

delayed by an hour went well and before we knew it the coached returned us back to Field

Land and  the normalities of our lives.

Over the trip we were educated and made to reflect each day, in a way that isn't possible in

a classroom setting. Learning through people, their stories and the city itself, the memories

that we had made there will be kept forever. With huge thanks to Mr Eaves, Mrs Higgins, Dr

Burrows and of course Berlin itself.

By Gabriella Green