Our First Day in Berlin: I-Witness Field School

Guest post series: I-Witness Field School

field-school-logo-colourThe I-Witness Holocaust field school (GMST 489) explores the ways in which the Holocaust is memorialized in Central Europe.

Our First Day in Berlin

Guest post by Cheyenne Furrer

Today (Monday, May 9) was our first day in Berlin; we arrived in the late evening after having some trouble getting everyone’s luggage. As well, one of our group members was switched off our flight and had to stay in London overnight. This morning we started with a short walking tour where we went to a few memorial sites.

My favourite site was the Book Burning site which sits in the courtyard in front of Humboldt University. The book burnings occurred in 1933 before the war started but was done to censor the books and literature available. I really enjoyed this site because it acknowledges the absence of books and knowledge but is contrasted with the University beside it, which emphasizes an abundance of knowledge.

After the walking tour we had a short class time in the New Synagogue. The New Synagogue was built in the late 19th Century but was partially destroyed during World War II.

After lunch we went on a longer walking tour and visited the Brandenberg Gate, the Memorial to Roma and Sinti Victims of National Socialism, the Memorial to the Murder Jews of Europe, and the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism. These sites inspired conversation and debate within our group, making them effective memorial sites.

We then carried on towards the T4 memorial, and finished at the Topography of Terror, which had a fairly large section of the Berlin wall. The Topography of Terror building is built where the former Gestapo and SS Headquarters were during the Nazi Regime.

All of the sites we visited created a discussion among us focusing on what we find important about a  memorial, what makes a memorial more effective, and if memorials can be considered shocking or offensive and what makes them shocking. With all these memorials we ended with more questions than when we started, which we’ll continue to ponder as our trip continues.

We finished our day here and everyone was fairly tired but we were still able to reflect on what we saw as well as enjoy our first evening in Berlin.

Our Group at Brandenberg Gate

Our Group at Brandenberg Gate

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