1st June 2016
Writing: Mohammad Karim (Year 10)
Photography: George Corby (Year 10)
Editing: George Corby (Year 10)
Following a half term filled with exams, last Saturday 80 boys from DCGS travelled to Berlin for a History trip to help better understand Imperial, Weimar, Nazi and Cold War Germany - all of which are key parts of the Cambridge iGCSE course.
Our first day started with a trip to Potsdam, visiting the Cecilienhof Palace built for Kaiser Wilhelm II. This fascinating Tudor-based building was the setting of the Potsdam Conference which was the peacemaking conference of July and August 1945 used to discuss the possible routes to achieving world peace. After dinner, we were treated to an evening walk around the east side of Berlin, replete with mass scale buildings from the communist era. We eventually ended up in Alexanderplatz where we saw our first glimpse of Germany's tallest building, the TV tower.
The next day started with a visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. It was an emotional journey for all of us, showing how racial, religious and social prejudice caused the appalling treatment of human beings during the war. The vivid and pompous offices of the SS contrasted the barren and poorly kept worker’s living and working conditions. It gave an extremely powerful message as we learned about the brutality of human beings towards other human beings.
After lunch we made our way to the Berlin Olympic stadium which hosted the 1936 Olympics as well as the 2015 Champions League Final. Following in the footsteps of Jesse Owens, we got a guided tour of the illustrious 75,000-seater stadium that is home to Hertha Berlin F.C. Many of us were impressed by the gold leaf-plated chapel of the stadium - something found in just three football stadiums in Europe. The chapel was filled with inspirational Bible verses in over 30 languages. We were even lucky enough to go to the VIP box, sitting where the likes of Angela Merkel sat.
The final event of the day was the walk around the remains of the Berlin Wall. To the left there was the east of Berlin, to the right there was the west. The vivid contrasts between the buildings on both sides was evident and we traveled along a tram back to our hotel where we ate dinner.
After an exhausting day, we enjoyed a '3D mini golf' experience where we were able to both relax and reflect on our experiences so far.
Our third day started with our four-hour tour of Berlin, covering a huge array of sights such as Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building - the German equivalent of the British House of Commons. The building was victim to the Reichstag fire in 1933. Fortunately, the British Architect Lord Norman Foster restored the building to its former glory as well as adding a glass dome in 1992. Our final part of the walk was the visiting the Holocaust Memorial - consisting of over 2000 blocks of concrete. The blocks have no overt meaning and have been left for the visitors to interpret.
Later on, we went to the Stasi prison, a prison initially used by the Soviets to de-nazify people. However, it soon became home to anyone who criticised the government - to the extent that even a joke about the government could get up to five years in prison. The whole system had a surreal 1984 feel to it, summed up by the quote, 'Big Brother is always watching you.' The whole Stasi workforce totalled to over 200,000 people. The majority of them were informal members, who used to spy on family members, school mates and close friends. The methods of torture used were horrifying; ranging from the initial physical trauma felt by the standing cells, where you were made to stand for days, to the psychological trauma felt by the prisoners when they were being interrogated. It was a sad fact to learn at the end that this treatment still occurs in some countries.
On our final evening, we were treated with a trip up the Berlin TV Tower. Built on the east side of Berlin, the tower represented the supremacy of the communist country of East Germany. The tower stands at 368 metres and is Germany's tallest building. The panoramic view was stunning, at 203 metres above the flat city of Berlin. We could see for 20km in every direction, clearly differentiating the east of the city from the west. From the viewing gallery we were able to identify the landmarks we had visited over the past three days.
On our final day, we started with a journey to the East Side Gallery. The 1.3 kilometer wall, which is part of the original wall, was decorated in political artwork. For me, the most memorable work was a communist car breaking through the Berlin Wall - symbolising the collapse of the East Germany.
On behalf of all the students who went, I’d like to thank all the staff that helped make this truly incredible trip possible. In particular, I’d like to thank Mr Buckland who led the trip and Dr Fenton who introduced this trip to the school.