Our flight boarded at Logan Airport at 8:35pm (Boston time) on our way to Munich. We arrived in Munich around 10am (German time), with just enough time to make our connecting flight to Berlin.
Once in Berlin, we hopped on the bus to get lunch at Restaurant Scheue, where I had Käsespätzle (German cheese noodles). It was delicious!! Then, we got back on the bus and went to Mahnmal Gleis 17, a train station that has plaques marking the deportation of Jews from Grunewald Station. It was heartbreaking to see the numbers of deportees increase as time went on, but at the same time uplifting to see roses and rocks adorning the tracks.
After that we headed to Wannsee Villa, where the conference deliberating the “Final Solution” took place. It was crazy to stand in the place where men discussed locking the Jews in gas chambers to make them die within 20 minutes to hasten the process. The room in Wannsee Villa that really stuck out to me was the one which included quotes from Holocaust survivors and their descendants. Here, it was made evident that just because these people survived and were “liberated,” the occurrences of the Holocaust haunt them and their families for eternity.
Following Wannsee Villa, we walked around to find the stumbling stones. These plaques in the cobblestone commemorate Jews that were persecuted by the Nazis, and the idea is that you literally just stumble upon these little memorials. It was also interesting to see the street signs with images such as hopscotch and bread, combined with a German sentence to convey a message of the way of life during the Nazi era.
Finally, we checked into the hotel and went to dinner at Osteria Caruso. It was so good and we all exchanged Valentines!! Now we are all exhausted but today was a great day with great weather (50s and sunny:)) so we’re all looking forward to the rest of the trip!
One of the places we visited today was Gleis 17. Here were the old train tracks of one station that took Jews to concentration camps across Germany. It was astounding to find out that thousands of Jews were stuffed into these small compartments and shipped away from their homes. Today this is a quiet place where people come to honor their ancestors with flowers and stones
It’s incredibly strange to take two planes, and, in under 9 hours, be somewhere completely different. Also, time didn’t really exist yesterday, which is neither here nor there but might give you some insight as to how we were feeling. Our first stop (after lunch) was the train station memorial at Mahnmal Gleis 17. The tracks themselves were overgrown, burning in the afternoon light. On the edge of the platform, where a yellow line might be on a modern platform, was another kind of warning: dates, numbers, names of camps. The numbers, by themselves, were hard to understand, hard to wrap your mind around. Together, they were incomprehensible. The memorial seemed a fitting beginning to our trip in that way. I think we’re going to spend a lot of time grappling with difficult truths.
An interesting part of Germany, and of Europe in general I think, is that you can’t avoid its history. There are layers of it. If you lived here you would ride your bike past haunted places on a daily basis. You would live in the ghost of the past. This was made very clear to us while walking through the Bayerischerplatz (a once predominantly Jewish part of the city). You can’t go anywhere without running into signs whose bright and simple designs draw the viewers eye to discriminatory laws passed against Jews in Nazi Germany. Also, imbedded into the cobblestones were plaques that detailed names, the date they were deported (deportiert), the date they were murdered (ermordet), and where.
The history of the city was also embedded in the Wannsee Villa (the place where “the Final solution of the Jewish question” was talked over by Nazi and German government officials). It was just one of many mansions by the lake, once owned by artists, then used by Nazis. Layer after layer. A group of men, orchestrating a genocide, made that house a witness.
This is what yesterday felt like. It felt like witnessing history. We walked to dinner past pieces of the Berlin Wall.