Published on: Tuesday, April 25, 2023
During the first weekend of the Easter holiday, 33 Fourth and Fifth Form pupils studying GCSE history, accompanied by four members of staff, set off for Berlin, the capital of Germany and one of the most fascinating cities in Europe.
Our Head of History, Dr Sorenson, writes:
We saw a range of historically significant sites across the city including the area where Nazi-supporting students burnt thousands of books outside the university, the Holocaust Memorial and the site of the underground bunker where Hitler spent his final days. The afternoon was spent at the Topography of Terror. Set in the area where the Nazi Reich Chancellory had been established, this museum tells the story of the horrors of the regime and those who suffered and died at its hands. The end of the day saw us going up the Berlin TV tower. Built during the era of the Cold War as a symbol of communist authority, it gave us a birdseye view of the city as a whole. After a nourishing dinner, some members of the group opted to take an evening stroll to the East Side Gallery. A section of the Berlin Wall which has been preserved and become an exhibition space for artists. All members of the group were also intrigued and nourished by the pizza vending machine at our hostel.
During the visit, we also visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp, now preserved as a museum. The atmosphere there was sombre and the freezing, grey morning added to the sense of real despair that seems to remain there. We then jumped on our bus to visit another Nazi construction, which opened at the same time as Sachsenhausen; the stadium built for the Berlin Olympics in 1936. The façade of the building is still as it was and frighteningly familiar from the propaganda film and newsreels showing the games where African American athlete Jesse Owens confounded Nazi racial theories by dominating the athletics track. Now used as a football stadium and the venue for the 2006 football World Cup final, Dr Snell was thrilled to have shared the same bathroom as the great French international Zinadin Zidane. On our final morning, we visited the former army headquarters, now a memorial to resistance against the Nazi regime. It was here that the officers involved in the 1944 bomb plot had planned their unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler and been arrested. It was a very sobering thought that the courtyard of the building was where the conspirators had been executed.
Whilst the trip was a very valuable academic exercise and one which literally enabled us to walk in the footsteps of those caught up in one of the most horrific periods in modern history, it was also a visit which enabled us to see what a dynamic, modern city Berlin is. Many of our group, particularly Mr Llewellyn, were pleased to see that ‘Dunkin Donuts’ has established a number of outlets throughout the centre. Thanks to all those who participated in the trip. The 4th and 5th Forms were fantastic in their engagement and good humour.
We received praise from members of the public on what great ambassadors for their school they were and a number of university staff on our flight were very complimentary of both the behaviour and interesting conversations the group were having. Many thanks of course to Dr Snell, Mr Llewellyn and our tour photographer Mr Hurrell, for all their hard work and giving up part of their holiday to make this trip such a resounding success.