St. Mary's history students visit Berlin
Some of the most iconic sites in twentieth century German history were on the schedule when pupils from St. Mary’s visited Berlin recently. A party of 40 students and four members of staff took part in the four-day history department trip which took place in cold but bright conditions.
The starting point for the tour of the German capital was in fact the late eighteenth century, with a visit to the landmark Brandenburg Gate, but the pupils quickly moved on to a series of sites with Nazi connections. They included the location of Hitler’s bunker, the Topography of Terror exhibition on the site of the former Gestapo headquarters, and the 1936 Olympic stadium.
There were also visits further afield to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and the Wannsee Villa, where details of the so-called Final Solution for Europe’s Jews were worked out in ornate surroundings.
Back in central Berlin, a visit to the modern Holocaust Memorial near the Brandenburg Gate was a particularly sobering experience. Later, post-war German history was explored via a series of visits to sites with Berlin Wall connections including Checkpoint Charlie, an observation tower and the former HQ of East Germany’s notorious secret police, the Stasi. Here - with the 1970s furniture still intact - the exhibits included a bugged watering can which was used when critics of the state began holding secret meetings in cemeteries!
Other elements of the busy schedule included an evening at the top of the Fernsehturm TV tower - built by East Germany to impress the West - and a visit to the city’s stunning Potsdammer Platz shopping and entertainment centre.
St. Mary’s Head of History, Niall Rothnie, who led the trip said, “Berlin is a fascinating place and I think everyone got a real taste of the city’s complicated history during the visit which was extremely successful. I would like to thank my colleagues for all their support and the students for being punctual, polite, tidy and supportive of each other throughout the four days.”
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