Berlin 2018 Holocaust trip
Learning about the Holocaust becomes more and more important in the current world political climate. Thirty people joined me on this visit. For me, Berlin is a vibrant city, but a city filled with memories and memorials- the Holocaust, deportations, Kindertransport, Kristallnacht, the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a city filled with museums, galleries, beautiful shops – it is a place of many contradictions- high security around Jewish sites, people sleeping rough and memories.
This visit has been especially arranged to commemorate both the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht and the centenary of Armistice Day.
We spent Kristallnacht, Night of the Broken Glass, at the main Jewish memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was dark, we listened to the names of those murdered and then went to a synagogue that was badly damaged during this organised attacks on the Jews and their property. It was a shabbat(sabbath ) service with a wonderful traditional choir. Kristallnacht, in this beautifully restored synagogue that was filled congregants.
We visited the grave of Moses Mendelssohn, the founder of Reform Judaism. He is buried somewhere in the oldest cemetery. The Nazis desecrated the whole cemetery and Mendelssohn’s tombstone stands alone. The statue of the women sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp stands bleakly outside. Wherever you go you walk over Stollpesteine, stumbling blocks – tiny plaques on the pavement showing who lived there and where they were deported to and murdered. The memorial to the Homosexual victims proved to be very controversial and we found the Roma and Sinti memorial peaceful; the quiet, gypsy’ music really captured us.
Hatred, fear, false information, segregation, destruction, – standing by, watching, not speaking out. A city, a society, countries being complicit. The Museum of the Terror of Topography explains how this happened, how so many stood by. This museum stands on the site of the Gestapo administration offices where the Holocaust was planned. It stands opposite Goering’s main imposing admin building- it explains how the victims were viewed by the Nazis.
We visited the remains of the Berlin Wall and and Hall of Tears. We saw how once again politics and hatred led to separation. Visiting the beautiful Reichstag Building I wondered what the future holds – 65 million people today have been forced to leave their homes and are searching for a safer place to live. Genocide continues in some places and few speak out. Nationalism and division are increasing. Nationalism and division are increasing.
Our first Armistice Day Service took place in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (in a Jewish barrack that suffered an arson attack by Neo Nazis in 1992!) and the second on Gleis /platform 17(thousands of Jews were deported to mass killings sites and concentration camps from this platform) I find it impossible to put into words! It is difficult to describe -WW1 and the Holocaust -the Last Post, Jewish prayers and moving readings. Every emotion from I tense sadness to fear, loneliness, isolation and anger!
Thank you to all who came on this moving learning journey.