We boarded an early train up to Sachsenhausen Memorial concentration camp about twenty-five miles north of Berlin. The overcast day matched the somber and sobering feelings during our two hour tour. We rented audio wands that allowed us to experience the camp on our own. Afterward, we sat and listened to music written and performed by a Sachsenhausen survivor. This moment is captured in video included in his post. It was emotional and thought provoking.
Walking back from Sachsenhausen, we stumbled upon a Bulgarian restaurant and rejoiced. The restaurant smelled of curry and spices, hummed with laughter and giggles; all our bellies were full with the hour.
The day ended with a stroll along the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall. Found in a neighborhood of Berlin where diversity and creativity thrive, we witnessed live electronic music, people of all walks, and commissioned art works on the wall itself. This particular section is considered the largest open air art gallery in the world. The colorful paintings ended our day with bright eyes and enlightened minds.
Here are contributions from the group starting with Mark Parsons’.
The essence of education “edu care” is to lead forth. For this teacher there is no more literal and consuming realization of this than through the lens of travel. In just three days with these twelve Seahorse scholars I have begun to sense a shift in perspective and a true thirst for knowledge. In obvious and less evident ways they are beginning to connect those things they have heard and perhaps read about with more literal and emotive learning. This awakening moves them to react and speak in ways that are new and remarkable. The new graduate is realizing that many years of education is truly a commencement. The passionate sailor sees a sea of reality and is more eager than ever to launch. Tears well up in the eyes of a rising senior on contemplating the horrors of persecution. Six students born in the 21st century find connections to the past that make them relevant in their changing world. A young man finds that the history of which he has read can be more than fascinating facts. The quiet young ladies now see that their voices are vital as they find injustice simply intolerable.
These lessons…these places…centuries of theological and philosophical experience…music that connects time to people and expression…all combine to humble us and make us thirsty for more.
The teacher becomes the student. The students teach. Everyone learns.This entire trip is a trip of firsts. I have never been to Germany, let alone overseas. When the opportunity presented itself, I went for it and, so far, have no regrets. ~ Mark Parsons
There was never a specific image or expectation I had for Germany as a whole. All I knew is that my favorite portion of history took place here. The Holocaust – though a heavy subject – has fascinated me since I began learning about it.
On June 3rd, the group walked along the streets of Oranienerg to reach Sachsenhausen concentration camp. To see it at the end of a neighborhood was reminder of how engrained it is now in German history and culture. The majority of my time there was spent alone. I listened to the accompanying recordings for background but eventually found myself keeping them to the side and absorbing the camp with my own eyes. I walked on ground that prisoners who were incarcerated for having beliefs that clashed with what was accepted at the time. They were imprisoned for being themselves. Even more sickening was the various tasks and punishments they were put through during their time at the camp. I was awakened to much more information of internal camp affairs than I had ever been exposed to.
When it came time to reflect, my mind went blank. You can describe the happenings of Sachsenhausen (and other concentration camps) as sickening, awful, horrible, or shameful. But, trying to describe the events does not do justice for what unfolded here. Explanations and descriptions can only go so far to express a feeling, then they become an insult. People of this day and age will never be able to fully explain the energy. Attempting to do so is almost wrong. We have not lived as prisoners but we can gain a glimpse of what their day-to-day was like. Visiting Sachsenhausen gave me another large layer of understanding and sympathy for the people targeted during the Holocaust. Still, it is like attempting to shovel to the middle of the earth. I was not there so I will never truly know. ~Amelia Brown ’19
Sachsenhausen on our fourth day of traveling Germany was extra deep. We walked the same path thousands of prison workers took into the town to work. When I walked Onto the site my breath was gone to be there In person was incredible. The grounds were very silent and ominous. Seeing the mass graves puts nazi camps and the horrors off the screen and in front. ~Barron Cohen ’20
Today, we went to a holocaust camp, and the things we heard from the hand held tour guide….they said the SS put a Christmas tree in the gallows hole. Jesus was hanged on wood and then they hanged Jews on a Christmas tree. The SS also the cremated Jews they killed ashes, they put a grill over it and grilled pork. Really ironic and just beyond words, well that’s something I learned today. ~Brendan Little ’18
Textbooks truly don’t do Germany justice. It’s life changing to walk the streets where history was made. Just walking along parts of Berlin Wall made me feel so in touch real history, everything is so rich with culture. ~Izzy Fenton, ’20
I’m not quite sure what I expected from Germany, perhaps a more solemn feel. I have been pleasantly surprised by the small town charm of Wittenberg, the vitality and creativity of Berlin, and the overall efficiency of everyday life. The German population is very diverse, but all are kind and helpful. It has been fun learning new German words, and I feel great knowing that I have made an effort to connect with them through language. This trip has been an amazing adventure. I have learned so much about Germany and my fellow students of CCS. Can’t wait to discover what will happen next!
~Allison Hughes ’20
Over the course of the past few days, we have been able to view the highs and lows of German society, traveling from the starting site of the protestant reformation and Berlin University, to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen and the Berlin Wall. What was highlighted by these comparisons was the extremes that humans could take, with the intellectual and reformative transformations representing the peaks that we could achieve, and the holocaust and cold war representing the depths that humans could sink to.
By far the most emotional experience that I have endured — I am not sure if that is the right word to use — was walking through the ruins of the concentration camp. I can’t describe the feelings that I felt, but what I do know what the intensity of the feeling was extreme. I already knew the intensities that the Nazis went to in order to achieve their final solution, but something about being in the presence of it all — the cruel irony of the Christmas tree where the hung prisoners, or the barbecue that was placed over their graves — was just overwhelming. I don’t see myself as a visibly emotional person, but that got to me. ~Claude Owen ’18
The experiences I have had in Germany so far have been truly incredible. It is really interesting to see all of tee historical land marks, and learn about the ups and downs of Germany’s history. Today, June 3, we visited A concentration camp outside of Berlin, after visiting a Holocaust memorial the day before. It was shocking what I learned at the memorial, but being in the camp was extremely powerful and heartbreaking. Even though it was incredibly hard to get through, it was important that we went and got to go into some of the original buildings in the concentration camp. Although it was sorrowful, it is important that we learn about both the good and the bad things throughout German history. ~Claire Keesee ’20
Today was a roller coaster ride of emotion. Our group went to Sachsenhausen, and I was overwhelmed by the barracks and how poorly these people were mistreated. Hunter and I walked around and discussed how it was possible to be this inhuman? Overall the day was educational, and it was fun. ~John Mahaney ’18
I find the communication between different people here in Berlin to be very touching. I meet strangers who are welcoming and helpful to foreigners such as myself. I see people efforting to climb over language barriers. I see people who are connected. ~Katie Villanueva ’19
The tour of the concentration camp was an impacting experience but I don’t think it was what it could have been. After both reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel and visiting the camp I found “Night” to be significantly more impacting due to the explanation of a first-hand experience. In his book, Elie Wiesel captivates the reader in the dark world encompasing the haulocost while, don’t get me wrong, the visit to Sachenhausen was no small experience its tour simply wasn’t enough to show the fuller eperience. ~Arthur Nichols ’20