Saturday, May 22, 2010
Wednesday was a pretty relaxed day since our only program was dinner and theater that evening. Boy was it an awesome restaurant. I feel like the Egyptian/Moroccan specialities were exactly the kind of nourishment I had been craving for a while...beans, lentils, falafel, more beans, hummus, and this DEELISH bread. Ahhh I can still taste the garlic. So glad Janet treated us there, I ate till I was super stuffed. Hey, I did my part in trying to clear up those four family sized platters!
Now for the play...whooo do I have a lot to say about this one. Let me just say that I was super sceptical at first when I saw the pictures of actors with clown make up and what not. And even more so when we got to the little chamber theater of the Deutsches Theater and saw wooden crates covering the stage! Now I was really in the mood for some traditional, straight up German rendition of this beloved tragedy (which luckily I had spent enough time studying in my 12th grade English class so I knew what the dialogue roughly was). Plus, I had heard how the Romeo and Juliet play had been awful so I was a little worried.
But it turns out that I was to be pleasantly surprised. More than that.
So yes the play was bizarre and completely took apart the original to create this wacky interpretation where all the characters except for the late King Hamlet's spirit had clown faces. And some of the characters such as Hamlet, Horatio, and Ophelia still looked quite attractive. So I'm sure many of you are familiar with Hamlet's loser friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, right? How they are pretty much useless. Well, this director decided to give the fools a new purpose...yes a purpose...by making them the English narrators of the plot, crazy and sadistic (since death makes them excited) and wanting to eat a member of the audience (yeaaahhhh...). Boy were they ugly. But cute! And get this...Hamlet had a bunch of black balloons floating over his head constantly and Polonious wore no pants. he only boxers with the flag of England on. So one thing is for sure, you have to applaud the director for his clever ways of turning the characters into caricatures of themselves. And those actors managed to prance over the edges of the wooden boxes. An interesting stage.
Hamlet was hilarious and satirical and even used humor to a point that it enhanced the grief of the play rather than overshadow it. I enjoyed it. Then again, crazy bizarre random things are totally my taste. Just not violence and jarring moments like in "Die Stunde...". And this is also probably the first play I have seen that didn't have smoking in it.
Other than that, I felt a bit sad to see my classmates leave = (. I am staying here in Germany a little longer to visit some old friends. I hope everyone had an awesome time learning as much as I did!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Jeff Zuschlag--Hey, Jeff! Hink-Pink! Yuckyuckyuck--just kidding :) I'm so glad you got to come on this trip. It was cool watching you experience your list of 'firsts' while you were here. For serious though, thank you for introducing Hink-pink to us. How many hours of entertainment did we get out of it? Hours. As you are aware.
John Burnett--Thank you for sharing daring adventures with me, and for making each moment delightful. All I can say is China/Korea/wherever better watch out!
Maggie Reil--Oh Maggie, you may not have realized it, but I felt particularly close to you on this trip since you too are staying. Thank you for always being so positive, and I look forward to seeing you in a few months :)
Michelle Lakey--I am so glad you got to experience this trip. I mean, listening to you talk about how you would like to study abroad now, and whatnot. I hope you realize you can do anything :)
Rashmi Satapathy--I can't tell you how excellent it was to watch you open up to us! I saw a side of Rashmi I didn't know existed. I feel honored that you feel comfortable enough with us to partake in our shenanigans.
Roxy Shooshani--My chocolate-partner-in-crime :) Enough said? No, there's tons more. Thank you for being my bed neighbor, and for helping to carry groceries for what seemed like miles.
Sarah Zawacki--First of all, check the Rashmi post. Secondly, thank you for being sweet, and sharing train conversation with me!
Sophia Blumenthal--Hello friend. Cuz that's what you are, my friend :) Fostering a friendship with you has been one of the most rewarding parts of this trip for me. I hope your flight, unlike the one to Moscow, was now delayed.
Veronica Long--Thank you for sharing your theater experience, & always being willing to discuss a theater piece we had viewed. Also, I will forever remember our '4 uncles' conversation!
And to all: Thank you so much for the going away card & gift! Truly special. I will treasure it always, for it was kindness I was not expecting, therefore making it all the more special.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Similarly, I'm a fairly methodical museum goer. To this day, I start at the beginning of the museum, read through just about every text box and examine every picture I can, following the already created narrative from logical beginning to logical end. In light of this tendency towards harmony, The Jewish Museum of Berlin (covering "2000 years of Jewish-German History") poses a difficult problem for me, because there is no beginning. The building is shaped like a crooked lightning bolt, or a snake having an epileptic fit, and looking from the outside, there isn't even an entrance. In order to get to the exhibitions, you have to enter the building which used to be the old museum, go down some stairs and into a tunnel, and suddenly you're in the basement of the new building.
If you're trying to figure out where to start in exploring German-Jewish history, you might think that the Holocaust would be a good place to start. But the museums architect, Daniel Libeskind, challenges through his design the notion that history creates a harmonious narrative: empty spaces, called "voids", are build into the museum; there are seemingly arbitrary jagged holes running through some of the walls. And the Holocaust exhibit (i.e. 1939-45) is only small part of the museum, comprising just one "axis" (like a musuem "wing", but it intersects with two others) in the basement. According to our tour guide, this is because it is the lowest point in Jewish-German History -- but not necessarily the starting point.
So the question of where to begin with this history is left up to the visitor. Start with the holocaust? Or go to the exhibition of Jews in comics? Or look at german-jewish relations during the 1400s? We had to take responsibility for our own experience with this history.
Well, not quite. We had a tour guide. I've heard that it's useful to remember how contradictory history and people are. (Reminds me of Andrei Codrescu's talk a few months ago at the U of M about the "picture perfect" Romanian revolution of 1989) As a writer, I've experienced how my tendency towards harmony has resulted in "flattened" poems -- where things that didn't fit were taken out, and the poem became less interesting and less truthful. It might be worthwhile for me to go back over the next few days and explore that museum on my own. If I do, I'll report back.
If you want to see some wicked pictures of a wicked piece of architecture, check out the musuem website here: http://www.jmberlin.de/ (In English & German)
Friday, May 14, 2010
It has been an interesting past several days, and thoughts don't stop swirling through my head, therefore, I am writing a blog instead of sleeping. Yay!
For one, I am finding more and more that I wish it were possible for me to closely study all of my interests. I love history and art history and german, hell I am even wanting to come here and study theater; but there is not much room for these anymore. I am a double-major in creative writing and psychology going on junior year. I think I will just have to earn a p.h.D in all of these to be content.
Second, all of the discussions, articles, and topics we covered throughout Cultures in Dialogue have been coming to life; and it was often heartbreaking to read about, but actually hearing it from a person living here first-hand is even more troubling, yet also extremely thought-evoking and interesting.
Yesterday the group toured Kreuzberg, a "ghetto" of Berlin with an unemployment rate of nearly 50%. Our tour guide is a Kreuzberger herself, whose family is Turkish, but who still identifies herself as a German. She showed us where the wall used to be in the town...one could only tell through some inconspicuous brick tiles under the dirt. There is now a quaint bridge separating a lovely path with trees, benches, and sun-kissed dog-walkers.
She used to play by that wall as a child. Her apartment was close-by, as were many immigrant families' apartments because they, unlike native Germans, were not troubled by a wall. The land was a no-man's land, desolate...but for young foreigners in impoverished Kreuzberg, it was their only playground.
She showed us her Mosque. It is a German Mosque; rather different from the tall, looming and elegant towers I have seen elsewhere, whose prayer calls can boom through a whole city. This one is basically part of an apartment complex. It is not large, it is not in the open. It is humble, but has beautiful, soft carpets on the interior.
Maybe the mosque is so hidden for a reason. The more questions we had, the more the guide had to explain. I have to say, at this point I am less upset at America and more upset at Berlin.
Here's the thing: As I explained in the last post, Germany does a very good job of accounting for their past, with their many memorials, museums, and public tours. But isn't it a little hypocritical to apologize so profusely about a genocide centered towards minorities and then create laws now targeting minorities? Laws like not allowing women wearing headscarves to teach classes or work many jobs, laws like prohibiting the mosque from announcing its prayer time, laws like not allowing Muslim students to have a small time excused for prayer.
According to the law, this is mixing religion with the public too much. Should Christians not be allowed to wear crosses around their neck, then? Should we vanish any thought of hiring a man wearing a Kippah? Maybe the schools in Bavaria should consider taking down the crosses hanging up in the classrooms of every public school before disallowing a Muslim with a headscarf to "intrude" upon people's religious "freedoms".
There is a difference between separation of Church and State and what is going on here. A huge difference. This is just...clear discrimination. And I worry. Germany is not the only place rampant with this kind of discrimination...it is all over. We have to remember how the Holocaust started...it was with discrimination, and with seemingly unimportant laws like the ones the Muslims here must abide to. It is all a slippery-slope.
I am not saying that is a likely consequence at all; but wouldn't the Germans feel guilty enough to think so?
Speaking of German guilt, I visited the Holocaust Memorial for the first time this evening with Phia and Sarah. Phia was afraid. I felt weird because I did not feel afraid at all. Sure it was dark, my head felt heavy, and my breathing slowed. But that was it. It felt like a dream, so it was more cool and interesting to me than frightening and depressing. I liked it. I do not feel it is my place, OUR place, to criticize these memorials. All of them are the products of intense thought and memorialization of the victims. They are complete artworks, created with purpose and effort - I am sure the victims appreciate this in it of itself.
I ask Carol a perhaps slightly controversial question recently - "Do you think that Germany maybe creates TOO many Memorials...such that they are not always genuine, and moreso for politics and foreign relations' sake?"
She said she understood why I asked that, but they are all sincere.
I know they are too...but sometimes, when I notice the way the government can still discriminate, I second-guess.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
So anyway, we moved to the new Hostel today, which is totally boss. hip. awesome. modern. whatever. The decoration is amazing, the people are SO FRIENDLY! Example: I was just standing at this computer station, typing, when one of the employees grabbed me a stool and said smiling, ''Here, sit :)'' Totally grade A service.
So I don't want to talk up to much time on this computer, but I did not to jot down some ideas before I forgot them. I guess these are more observations about Berlin, actually.
1) I did NOT expect so much graffiti everywhere. It's everywhere. After moving into The Circus, Phia, Vern, and I took the train to Potsdam and I realized, that with every passing mile--or kilometers, rather (I guess that's more appropriate right now)--I saw graffiti E V E R Y W H E R E. And there are a lot of times, most times, in fact, where I think it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Seriously, I hope my parents aren't pissed when I bring my camera home and it's full of pictures of neon letters and designs. I love seeing it, but sitting on the train, staring out the window into the nothingness of the forest, THERE WAS STILL GRAFFITI. Like, COME ON, take a break!! Why was every inch slash centimeter covered in names and....names of body parts...!?!? It was bothersome. Looking at the peaceful green and then seeing....names of body parts. So yes, I was a little annoyed.
Well, the train ride got me thinking about it, and now I can't stop thinking about it.
Item number 2: Berlin is not handicap acessible. Not in the slightest. It's actually a little disappointing. I can only remember seeing one elevator in an U Bahn Station, and the escalators are far and few in between. It's not even just the mobility. It's the...how do I put it? It's the overall condition of life for people with any sort of handicap here in Berlin. Every person I've seen, from a broken leg, to a missing arm, permanent to temporary handicaps... I hope I can say this without lumping everyone into one group, but they all just seem so rough around the edges. Dirty, tired, exhausted, not well cared after. They seem alone. I see that people keep their distance. There is always some sort of invisible boundary. No one makes eye contact. :/
It's really disheartening. I had expected something better, I guess. Maybe I hadn't expected anything at all. But just the state of almost everyone I've seen...it's just really something that needs attention.
Anyhoo, I see some old man eyeing me for my computer. Time to go! Bis Bald!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
We aren't even one week into the trip and the students know their way around, have adjusted, have seen a ton, and. . . we need to get some pictures up to show it. This group has been absolutely GREAT! They have made it to early-morning tours on time, they are engaged and ask good questions on tours, they are taking in Berlin with all their senses. We are all very tired, but the upcoming days will allow the students plenty of time to explore on their own. So far, we have had tours of Berlin Mitte, Sachsenhausen, the Stasi Prison, a Jewish Berlin walking tour, and a walking tour of counter-memorials. We've been guests at a reception at the non-profit where we tutor, we read on the public square where the (Nazi) book-burnings were on May 10, 1933, and we had a meeting at the Tagespiegel newspaper with the chief editor of Culture, who talked with us about theater in Germany, today. . . And I'm sure I must be forgetting something! Our only remaining tours after this are a walking tour of Kreuzberg, a tour of the Jewish Museum, and a day-long trip to Dresden with a guide. I'm posting a few older photos. The ugly green structure is just off the grounds (beyond a fence) of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp memorial. It was the Casino that the SS frequented (so that their work didn't get to them, too much). The big group in the last photo is all the kids, their parents, and their German tutors who showed up to meet us at the Community Center where we tutor.
Today was another dreary (weather wise) but fun-filled day in BERLIN! To start off our day we read a little Brecht, Tucholsky und so weiter... Breakfast, wie immer, was DELICIOUS. Fresh brötchen, käse, salami und schinken, mmmmmm, lecker. We sat around our knights round table (coolio round table in the b-fast room at 3 Little Pigs) and read aloud in our best German accents. We didn't get too many looks, but it was quite a grand way to start the morning off.
Then we were off to the races. Okay so not the races, but Friedrichstrasse, or at least around that area. Today an exhibit and readings was going on to commemorate the writers and their works that were burned in the 30s. There were readings being done by various people; some kids from the Jewish High School, a famous german fußball spielerin, and US, the beautiful Studenten aus MICHIGAN (pronounced by the Germans as MITCH-EE-GAN, super cute) We were complemented on our schön Deutsch, which in my case is such a lie, but it was a nice complement nonetheless. I read an excerpt from Brecht's "An Die Nachgeborenen", which I would advise reading, auf Englisch, oder auf Deutsch, also auf Deutsch natürlich, weil es Brecht ist, aber English when you can't do German. Real good stuff the man has got there, real good.
We went to Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof for lunch, ate some crepes, and Roxy ate MCDONALDS (shame on you ROXY) we meandered about the platform for a bit, took in our surroundings and then it was back to the Pigs (HOSTEL). For my own personal note, which I guess a lot of this is anyways, I went down to the little lobby we have at the Pig, and as I was on my computer I was approached by this interesting Brazilian guy. We talked for 45 minutes, good chat about life, and I was proud to have met a stranger finally, okay not stranger, but yeah stranger, but interesting encounter while here in Berlin. It was a good time, but then I had to go to tutoring.
HERR MANN is such a hoot, and he's from FLORIDA... We had a good chat, but I'm pretty sure our English conversations caused my Tutee to bore herself in a daze, which I apologize for. However tomorrow I'm with her and Inge, who can nur auf Deutsch sprechen, so it will be far easier for her to understand. I love my Tutee, she's such a sweetheart and I hope she enjoyed my ramblings about America.
So now comes the REALLY good part. "TRUST":
I was about in tears approx like 5 times throughout, and it was just beautiful, amazing, grand, awesome, KEWL, GREAT. I loved it, loved it, loved it. I would so advice going to it, but for those of you who AREN'T in Germany, too bad, you're missing out. This show has got to be my favorite thing I've seen in a long time, in fact, one of the best ever. The experimentation wasn't too over the top, and I don't know, it's too hard to explain its grandness, but it was grand. I just felt like it was life changing : D
But now it is night night time, and this lady must sleep. Thank you for taking time out of your life to read my mumble jumble, GUTE NACHT, TSCHUSS
I was so nervous. SO NERVOUS. I have a notoriously bad sense of direction, and language barrier aside, I needed to get to the durn place. Emma said thatshe would maybe be back to the Hostel in time to go with me to the center (and by 'go' I mean babysit and lead me), but if she wasn't there by 3, I was to leave without her. Emma, if you are reading this, let me tell you that I was basically PRAYING that you would get back...
But alas, some higher power had determined that TODAY was going to be the day that I learned to stand on my own two, directionally-challenged feet. After asking Veronica to repeat the directions twice, and then bothering the crap out of Maggie for directions to the station, I left, sweating. profusely. with an upset stomach.
But the journey was totally fine. haha. It was actually completely fine. When I arrived at Möckenbrücke U Bahn Station, it seemed as though a bomb of pre-teens had gone off. For real. It was that packed with kids. High-pitched chattering, a sea of trendy backpacks and awkward flirting. I took it as an omen.
I squeezed myself onto the train, wondering if maybe I would run into Emre. Did he go to the school that had just gotten out? Would he see me?? Would we say hi?? Would I understand him??? My mind was racing, ok? Trying to find my way around gives me this sick, crazed state of mind. It was dramatic.
But anyhoo, I did not run into him, and I made it to the center ALL BY MYSELF. without getting lost once. which doesn't normally happen. So needless to say, I was feeling pretty empowered. Until I realized that I was about to start my tutoring session. Holy crap.
Thank goodness I ran into Rashmi. She totally calmed me down again. Or calmed me down so that I could think a little bit more clearly. I swear, my heart was beating so fast. Between that and Lesen gegen das Vergesen this morning, my cardio vascular system has really gotten a work out today (L g d V was really awesome by the way, it rained and I was nervous, but what else is new? haha). So Emre arrived, and then shortly thereafter I was walking between him and his Schülerhelferin Kristin Schröder to our working space.
Is it gross to say that I was sweating so much?? Too honest?? Girls sweat too, you know. My heart was pumping and I felt like I was going to die. Maybe thats why I was all smiles afterwards. This single first day of tutoring has been one of the best experiences I've ever had. It was awkward a little bit. But not too much. I had brought cookies, and I just bit the bullet and told them about it. They laughed and we ate cookies while we helped Emre work on his math.
It was really nice. I was able to understand almost everything, and I didn't do too bad of a job speaking in German :) We were all able to laugh at things during the almost two hours we spent together. I learned a little bit about Emre and Kristin and told them about myself and America. Emre kept asking me about England haha and I had to keep reminding him that I wasn't from there :)) It was too cute. And I just had a great time in general.
Emre is one of the most polite 13 year olds I've ever had the pleasure to meet. He held the door open for me, helped me when I wasn't sure where to sit, asked for permission to eat some of the cookies I had brought, and had the most friendly smile!! He was just such a nice boy. So good natured. And I may have fallen in love with his Schülerhelferin, too. She was so nice. Apparently, she had wanted to live in Berlin for at least a summer. But she couldn't find a job. She decided to live here anyway, and joined up to help with the tutoring. She's not getting paid for it all all. And that was all she was doing for a while. Living in Berlin and tutoring Emre. My heart went out to her.
After the session was done (I hadn't even realized it, but we ran over by nearly 40 mins!) Emre left for home and I walked back to the office with Kristin. I was asking her about her plans for later and we were just talking and it was so amazing that I was genuinely COMMUNICATING with another person from another country, from another culture, from an entirely different background!! I suddenly gasped. I had addressed her as 'du' in a question that I had uttered just moments before. Crap! So I started apologizing, and before I could even finish my sentence, she assured me that it was fine-that she had used dir for me and that it didn't matter. This woman just warms my heart. :)
I will be seeing Emre again on friday, we are taking a break from school work and visiting the Reichstag because he and I have never been. He has a different tutor on fridays, so I'm sad I won't really be seeing Kristin again. She honestly was one of the nicest people I had ever met.
I can't wait to see Emre again either!! I want to bring him something, maybe some of the cool American ''heep-hop'' that he likes so much. He's a fan of T pain. and Beyoncé. and Rihanna. (''Do you understand most of the english lyrics?'' ''No, but it sounds good.'' haha)
So I really lucked out today. And I hope tomorrow's tutoring goes just as well.
By the way, I'm using a German keyboard. Which is awesome because of the sweet umlaut buttons that are oh, so convenient. ä ö ü ä ö ü :) yay!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
I have been in Berlin now since Thursday, and have already learned and experienced an incredible amount. This post will focus mainly upon the past two days, which have had the greatest impact upon me, and likely the whole group, thus far.
Waking up yesterday at 7 AM wrenched the nerves for sure. I am a Jew who has never set foot on a concentration camp's grounds, but I knew the time had to come. I was afraid of the emotions I might experience, I was afraid of how the whole process would go. I have heard stories of members of the chosen people breaking down and crying, I have heard stories of the trauma that can follow after.
Despite these lingering fears, I knew my peers along with Janet would be strong and respectful. I could not imagine a better group to tour my first camp with. We are all extremely close to one another, I would say even on a deep emotional level...so I was very comfortable entering such a touchy situation with them. I believe they made the experience more full and yet easier on me in the end.
We took a train (a legit, high-speed train, which was comfortable and nice) to the area - Oranienburg. The very edge of Berlin, hardly considered as a part of Berlin by many. I felt chills the minute we entered the town, especially the closer we came to camp. The weather did not exactly help - it dipped into the thirty's and was eerily gray and windy. A morbid weather matched the morbid setting all too well.
Even outside the camp, seeing the tall gray walls and uninviting barbed wire, I felt it all. It is almost surreal - being at Sachsenhausen - one of many labor camps that I grew up learning about in my orthodox jewish elementary school. The site of so much suffering, so much injustice, and many cruel and unusual deaths. The site of crematoriums - something I always read about since a child but never really wanted to form a realistic picture of in my head. The human ovens, the efficient "gassings", the roll calls and careless shootings. I knew all about it, but I read them...I read them in Night, I read them in Number the Stars, I read them in Anne Frank. I practically read them in story books. I heard first-hand accounts from survivors I had met, whose tattoos of their number still serve as consistent reminders of the horrors they endured.
But I never experienced it first-hand myself. The closest I could come was being a Jew, and feeling that Jewish suffering and intuition of those before us. I am even a Persian Jew though, and did not have any relatives in the holocaust. Well, I suppose what I am getting at is that I do not believe ANYONE can truly comprehend the terrors until braving it up and visiting a camp. And when you get there, it is surreal yet grounding.
I learned many things from our excellent tour guide, who is currently a history student. I learned about the way the camp expanded from one small triangle, meant for about 10,000 prisoners, especially political dissidents, and expanded to hundreds of thousands, and to a greater area, as more Jews, homosexuals, political dissenters, and other unwanted people in Nazi Germany, like Jehovah's Witnesses and criminals, were sent in. The place was packed. It was primarily people who could contribute to labor that were sent to Sachsenhausen, instead of straight to a death camp like Auschwitz. The prisoners themselves actually built the camp earlier on...some prisoners had to build the very devices that would kill many of their people, like the crematorium. Many created the bricks that built up the place, others built the casino - the "green monster" - which the nazi officers could enjoy themselves in and forget about the atrocities they committed in the day.
Some prisoners were able to survive through working at this casino and sneaking food. Others attempted this and were killed on the spot after being caught. Everyone who attempted to escape here were shot. In fact, Sachsenhausen is one of the only camps (or the only?) where not a single prisoner successfully escaped. Sachsenhausen, it should be mentioned, was also very much destroyed later on, whether through bad weather after the war or bombs during it. We could see the remnants of the crematorium, which was still very chilling.
This is how it worked. Prisoners were taken to the crematorium/gas chamber building, knowing perfectly well what this building serves as because of the giant chimneys emitting smoke and a stench to the whole town. But they would be surprised and likely relieved as they entered the building and came into what seemed to be a doctor's appointment. A doctor would be sitting in the first room, a cold place with white walls and loud german music playing. The doctor would take a look at them, have them remove their clothing, and mark an x on the their chest and shoulder. The prisoner is led to have no clue what is about to happen. They were then told to go through either the right or left door.
Through the right door, they enter a small room with shower heads which immediately gas them. The gassings at this camp, being that it was not meant to be a death camp initially but a labor camp, were used as experiments to create more efficient and potent gassings for the death camps. Sometimes they did not work quickly or did not kill the suffering prisoner, in which case they were simply shot. Other times people went though the left door, which brought them a very small room. They were told to stand at a very particular spot against the wall, with a crack in it. Then the doctor left and an office in a room on the other side of the crack aimed at their heads and shot them.
The Nazis had a technical, mechanic and certainly more fancy sounding term for this - Headshot Machine (or system.) Of course it was really no machine, but rather proof of Nazis preference to not have to outright shoot people. Less because of shame, and more because of complaints about blood getting on their clothes.
The biggest monument at Sachsenhausen is very notable. It showcases three burly looking, handsome men, two supposedely prisoners and one a Soviet officer at their rescue. Behind them stands a tall, tall, monument with red triangles at the top. This monument was, of course, built during Soviet rule of East Germany, and showcased a rather unrealistic view of the prisoners. The red triangles are significant too - red trianges are what the political prisoners during the Third Reich were forced to wear. Therefore, many take issue with the memorial as it does not memorialize all prisoners, and does so in an idealistic light.
So, what did I feel? I did not cry. I felt sad, but not as overwhelmed as I had pictured. The sadness you feel in a place like Sachsenhausen, which is so COLD, DESOLATE, AND OPEN, is just that. You feel like a prisoner must have more than remorse. You feel helpless, nervous, oppressed, and as though there is no escape. I identified with the prisoners instead of crying for them, if that makes sense. It was extremely, extremely dark. The tour last a little over two hours, and by the time it was over I felt so overwhelmed that my body, and everyone else's, were reacting in one way: leave.
I will try to be more brief on my account of the former Stasi prison, Hohenschonhausen, which rests on the other end of the Berlin.
What can I say. Sachsenhausen was dark and isolated and cold - but this prison was even more intense; perhaps because it was far less destroyed and far more recent. But it was hardcore one of those place a "haunted" ghost-hunting television show would be all over. I felt ENTRENCHED with negative energy the entire time I was there. Hopefully someone else will blog with more details about the absolutely disgusting, inhumane, terrifying acts that went down there, because I went to focus on some other things. First, and briefly, those creepy feelings. I was so overwhelmed I asked our tour guide about the possibility of ghost stories from the place. She said she had heard of none, but would definitely not be surprised if spirits were roaming about. And the spirits there - trust me, they would only be there because they had not died in peace and are still traumatized.
Towards the end of the tour, I could not stop shaking out my hands and body, as if to shake off the negative and seriously WRONG feeling energies that had attached themselves to me. The place wasn't only cold, it was evil, it still lived somehow....whereas the camp was very much a memorial. this place still has its ghosts, as it only officially closed in 1990. the year i was born. plus all of it was kept SO in tact...phones and chairs in the exact same place they once were. i am sure this is part of its creepy factor.
anyway most of what ran through my mind here was anger.
ANGER, at whom?
Skpeticism and anger. During the time, inhabitants of the area had no clue about this prison and especially the reality of what went on there. The horors. The same horrors I am certain America CONTINUES to treat its political prisoners with, which most of the country is oblivious to. The horrors that occurred in Guantanamo Bay. We must wonder, will Guantanamo ever be opened for public viewing like Germany's concentration camps and stasi prisons? Germany is able to admit to most of their faults. And fully. I give them credit.
I wonder about America's former Japanese Interim Camps...can the public tour this? I think about the way we treated the native americans and CONTINUE TO. Most Americans are apathetic and oblivious just like many Germans were. It is time America admits that we are not always the just, all fair, ope-minded land we claim to be. I thought it was especially interesting when the tourguide noted East Germany with still having a death penalty as horrific and a big deal.
America still has it. America, I am sure, still employs many of the same awful torture techniques the Stasi did. Up until very recently, we had our own version of the prison that was also kept isolated so no one could really no what was going on - Guantanamo.
It was an angering and hurtful realization to have.
I would write more but my fingers are numb from typing! I know my peers have more to add upon this !!!