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Conclusion

June 20, 2010

 

This trip was a great experience for me.  Not only did I learn about the history of Germany more in-depth I was able to learn about their culture as well.  Two weeks wasn’t enough but I did get a lot out of it.  I loved Berlin and all that it stands for, my favorite part about the city is definitely the graffiti. Unlike the graffiti here, it is art there and it actually means something not just writing on a wall.  Everything was intriguing what I found very special was the fact that the history was being embraced and not denied.

After going to all of the museums I found that everything correlates, one side is not bashing the other, it is being told like one big story where each side complements one another and helps you understand the big picture.  I find this impressive because you do not see this often, usually the perpetrator and the victims tell the story completely different but in this case it’s like they came together to help tell the story.  Each side made every detail seem important and did not leave anything out no matter how shameful it was.  This is a very important step because it shows that people as a whole are coming to terms with the past which is essential to create a brighter more positive future.  Making it a point to teach the people in your country the exact history of it can help in many different aspects along with avoiding it from occurring again.  Although remembering the past can be painful it is necessary in the healing process and I believe Germany is doing a great job at it.  While down there I thought, well maybe they are just putting these memorials up to say there it’s done lets move on, but it is not the case.  Students learn about the holocaust for a year which is more than any American learns about slavery or Native Americans. 

All in all it was a great experience that I will never forget.  All of the people were great, my class mates were one of a kind, and the music was awesome J.  Being able to see a well-known Dj at the top of a sky scraper is something I have never dreamt of doing and I did, only in Berlin!! The history was amazing; everywhere we went it looked like every building we saw had a story to tell and it did.  While down there I felt free.  No one cared what you looked like or were wearing which is completely different from here.  It was a breath of fresh air, literally.  I’m glad Denver started renting bikes downtown it’ll help me remember our awesome 4 hr. bike ride!  I don’t want to say goodbye Berlin sino hasta luego!

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Is it Bad Luck or Karma?

June 20, 2010

After reflecting on the events that have occurred throughout German history I have come to a conclusion that is based on my personal beliefs.  I am not a religious person nor am I an expert on it but there are some aspects of it I am very fond about and one of those is Karma.  Karma in Buddhism is the force that drives samsāra- the cycle of suffering and rebirth for each being.  Good, skillful deeds (Pāli: “kusala”) and bad, unskillful (Pāli: “akusala”) actions produce “seeds” in the mind which come to fruition either in this life or in a subsequent rebirth.  That is the definition that Buddhism goes by and to my understanding it means what goes around comes around.  So how does this pertain to Germany?  Well looking back on the events that have taken place since the end of WWI it is pretty apparent that Germany has had some great misfortunes up until 1989 when the wall came down.  So was the GDR the Karma for all of the harm German people did to those they considered “others”?

I am going to list all of the things I analyzed that helped me lead to this conclusion beginning with what we have learned in history classes throughout our educational careers which is the fact that Germany instigated both world wars and subsequently lost both.  The next point is that the German people had to tolerate two dictatorships in a row, the one by Hitler and the one by the GDR. For the second dictatorship, which as we know was communist, only 16 million people had to experience it out of the entire German population but it is still a significant amount.  The Eastern government as we learned throughout this trip was totalitarian and used terror to keep everyone in line and well disciplined.  It used the German people against the German people which I think is worse than German against Jew, homosexual, disabled, etc.  So why does this matter?  If we think back at how many people died under Hitler’s command it is about 11 million people, 6 million Jews and 5 million others that were being persecuted by his government.  These people were being exterminated in many different ways, driven out of Germany, torn apart from their families but it did not take long for them to realize what was going on and if caught what their fate was going to be as opposed to the GDR people lived in constant fear, having to watch their backs constantly, making sure they said and did the right thing every time because you never knew who was spying on you and just waiting to report you to the Stasi, it could be your spouse, friend, relative, or just a random person.  So I’ll leave to you to decide which one is worse? I personally think that not knowing who to trust and being picked up out of nowhere by people you didn’t know, taken to jail for something you probably didn’t do and tortured physically and mentally is much worse than knowing exactly what your fate was going to be like the majority of the people during Hitler’s time. 

Next, I looked at the fact that the same concentration camps that were being used on the “others” during the Nazi period were now being used on the German people, interesting, how’s that for a taste of your own medicine?  I’m not in any way justifying any of these actions but after some deep thought I honestly did see the GDR as the Karma for all of the harm that was done during Hitler’s time.  Of course not all of the German people paid in the same way but 16 million of them did which is a pretty close number to how many people were killed during the holocaust… Lastly, the Nazis were in power for about 12 years while the GDR terrorized the German people for 40 years.  So is it Karma or just bad luck?

        

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Somewhat summary of last week :)

June 5, 2010

 

We have visited multiple sites and each one tells their own version of history during Hitler’s Nazi state, each story is just as interesting as the others and help sum up what occurred during that time period.  Though each one of these places was amazing the place that has had the greatest effect on me thus far is Sachsenhausen, it basically helped me realize that this is real, it happened, and thousands of people were ruthlessly murdered at this very place.  Before, I just could not fit it around my head how a whole community could try to exterminate an entire sector of their population for no real reason besides race, but going to this concentration camp helped cement that for me.  While there the feeling of sadness just overwhelmed me, the smell I could not describe but it wasn’t the smell of your normal open field, you didn’t have to know the history of the place to know that somehting terrible had happened there, it was quiet, lifeless, at the same time I saw it as this one giant restless spirit that wanted to tell its story… It was something out of this world.

One always wonders “if I was put in that situation what would I do?” And ones immediate response usually is, “I would fight back!” It is understandable because that is human nature but the fact of the matter is that it is easier said than done.  In my opinion the reason why a lot of these people did not fight back is because they lived in a state of fear, the kind that just makes you numb and even though you are watching all of these atrocities occur around you, you are just too tired to fight back.  Why was this even allowed to begin with? Well as everyone has mentioned Germany at the time that Hitler took over was in a very bad place economically, politically, their entire structure was weakened because of WWI so in a way this very bright, articulate man was the light at the end of their tunnel.  Not only did this play a huge role but the fact that these people were angry, angry at the fact that everything was being blamed on them, and angry that they lost a war which they had begun did not help the situation.  They needed something or someone to blame their misfortunes on and get even with and unfortunately that was everyone who they did not see fit their perfect society.

We see mass killings like this throughout history and presently but not to this caliber and that is why it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that millions of people were killed which is an extremely large number considering that not many years had passed since Hitler began his evil plan.  It is important to remember such events because we really do not want history to repeat itself, it might sound like a cliché but I think by learning about history it better prepares us for the future and in some ways teaches us how to fight back if ever put in that situation.  What I am scared of at this point is not the thought of an American genocide because I do not think people in this time period and especially there would let such events take place, but the dehumanizing and the stripping of rights, not that they had many, of illegal people in the U.S. which as we can recall were the very first stages the Jews experienced before the holocaust took full effect; so if it is not genocide of all illegal people how will the government exterminate them?  I find it crazy to even think this way or even compare the two but I also found it crazy that the Nazis could commit such crimes and they did, so hey anything is possible!

The past week was an awesome experience.  Learning about the Nazis and Hitler’s’ totalitarian state in depth has helped me understand it on a whole other level.  Visiting the sites where all of their planning took place and where it was executed was very powerful.  Reading about it in text books or hearing about it from a teacher is a lot more different than actually experiencing it firsthand.  Not only is Berlin’s history amazing but the people, food, and night life are as well.  It is definitely something I will remember for a very long time if not forever…