30th May - 3rd June 2018
Writing: Zain Mobarik (Year 10)
Photography: Luke Amos (Year 10)
During the May half term, Year 10 historians headed off to visit the city of Berlin. The trip aimed to give us a first hand experience of what was happening between the lines in Berlin during the 20th century and to deepen our understanding of what it felt like to live in Berlin during these harsh times. This tied in neatly with our recent GCSE study of Weimar Germany, Nazi Germany and the Cold War.
After arriving in Berlin we went without any delay to Cecilienhof, a beautiful palace near to where the Potsdam Conference took place in 1945 - this being the conference to decide what should happen next in the aftermath of the Second World War. An evening visit to the East Side Gallery followed, where we saw a section of the Berlin Wall covered in what has become world-famous graffiti and powerful, mesmerising artwork. This gave us an idea of what people really felt inside and how wonderfully they expressed it through their art.
On the second day, we were introduced to the history of Berlin during the Cold War, when it was divided by the Berlin Wall to prevent anyone leaving the Eastern (Soviet) zone into the Western (British, American and French) zone. We went to an area of the wall that had been rebuilt to show how it would have looked during the 1960s, and it was clear to see how hard an escape attempt would have been - it gave us an insight of the struggle of the people back then. An overview of life in East Berlin in the Bernauer Strasse Museum preceded a trip to the Stasi Prison Museum, a place where political prisoners and people who tried to leave East Berlin were held and tortured in harsh conditions. In addition, we had a visit to the statues of two iconic figures that revolutionised communism: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. This extremely busy day was concluded when we went up the 368m high TV Tower, where we had some stunning views of the city of Berlin at sunset.
The third day was very much a day of memorial, where we visited one of the most notorious concentration camps for prisoners - Sachsenhausen. We learnt about the harsh conditions for inmates during Hitler’s reign. The day was balanced out with a trip to the Olympic Stadium (which was being set up for a Guns and Roses concert the following day) and a blacklit indoor mini golf course! It was a relaxing way to end a stressful day.
Our final day began with a three-hour walking tour where we saw some of the more notable sites of the city such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and our final memorial of the visit. This collection of grey rectangular blocks of different dimensions was designed to create an uneasy, confusing atmosphere as you walk through. The beauty in this piece is that the artist was so unsure as to how to make a memorial for all those persecuted (Jews, homosexuals, the disabled and so many more) that he left it so open for interpretation. Simple, yet extremely effective. Our final destination was the Palace of Tears: it got its name because it was a location where you could move from West to East Berlin, and there were many tears shed as there was no going back and it was the last time many people expected to ever see their families. To top this off we had a relaxing cruise on the River Spree that went past many of the sites we had visited. This allowed us to reflect and recall all the information we were given as we cruised past.
Thus we ended our trip leaving us all humbled at the great suffering of minorities in Germany in the Second World War and inspired to make a change and to stand up if we ever experience something similar, even on a smaller scale. We all enjoyed every moment of the trip and wished it could have lasted longer, to see what more was happening between the lines. Thanks completely to the History Team and the Visits Office for organising this trip and giving us an incredible opportunity.