Checkpoint Becky- Lessons Learned from Berlin


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April 14th 2012
Published: April 14th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

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I have recently returned from my 12 days abroad in Europe to 4 different cities. Over the course of those 12 days, I felt every emotion possible. This trip helped me grow academically, but it also opened my eyes to more cultures as well as understanding who I am more deeply. For this particular blog post, I am going to focus on my 3 days in Berlin, Germany. It is hard to classify my time in Berlin because I spent the majority of my time there in museums relating to World War II.I cannot really say it was “fun” in Berlin, but I would say that Berlin made a lasting impression on me.

I often critique the education system in America because of its reluctance to teach the events in American history that are not proud moments. With horrible atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust in Germany, I was curious to see how they handle these particular events. I was thoroughly impressed with the Germany’s openness of their dark times. I went to the Topography of Fear museum and the Holocaust Memorial museum. Both were wonderful exhibits that left me unable to speak for some time after. The Topography of Fear focused on Hitler’s rise to power. Since I am currently teaching this in my year 10 class, I spent a long time in this exhibit. The memorial museum focused more on the actual Holocaust. The exhibit featured 12 Jewish families who were living under Nazi Germany occupation. I read about each family member before, during, and what happened to them after the war. For the first time, I had faces and stories to accompany the number of people killed during the Nazi regime. Both exhibits left me grasping for answers of how such horrible events could ever have taken place, and only about 70 years ago.

On the second day in Berlin, I went to the east side of the city and walked along the longest portion of the Berlin Wall still standing today. Now covering the walls are peace murals done by artists all around the world. Seeing the wall immediately made me think of Belfast and the peace murals that cover that wall as well. As I walked along the wall, I kept thinking about the psychological symbolism of walls. This wall once physically separated a city, but it stood for a division in ideology. As I walked, I heard another tourist ask “why didn’t they tear down this portion of the wall too?” That question kept nagging at me. Should the whole wall be torn down? I finally came to the conclusion, no. The wall now stands as a reminder of what the past once was and what the future must never be. There are some divisions in life that cannot be fully restored, but that doesn’t mean we should not try to understand others cultures and beliefs.

My visit to Berlin was a “checkpoint” in my life. I came to England to student teach to explore another culture. It wasn’t until Berlin that I realized just how important it is to learn from each other and the past. It is foolish of me to assume that horrible atrocities have stopped occurring. I can’t help but think of Trayvon Martin and how an innocent teenager was shot to death. Obvious element of race and ignorance contributed to this person’s death. It frustrates me to hear about this tragedy, especially in Europe where I hear Europeans perspectives on this death and so many other American issues.

As I left Berlin, I went with the image of that long wall and a small quote painted on it. “He wants the world to remain as it is doesn’t want the world to remain at all.” 2 weeks later, I am still pondering the meaning of this quote.

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