Our plan for One Week Seminar: Past – Present – Future
We will pick you up from the airport and then go to Treptower Park and the “gothic” boulevard. During the ride a first, general explanation about Berlin will be given. In the Park you see the impressive “Soviet War Memorial” that was made in memory of the 5,000 red army soldiers, who were killed in the battle of Berlin. We will have a conversation about the historical meaning of the memorial that includes, among others, sixteen sarcophaguses with quotes of Stalin in Russian and German, and the “Russian Mother” sculpture, which rise to the impressive height of three meters.
Berlin: Between separation and reunification – we will go to the “East Side Gallery”, the remains of the Berlin wall, which have become to a graffiti museum in the heart of Friedrichshain district. On the way you will see the “Molecule Man”, a sculpture that represents unity and entirety.
We will continue to the Lustgarten ("Pleasure Garden"), the luxurious royal palace garden who was destroyed by the Soviets.
Then we will arrive at the most beautiful square in Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt, at which the guidance will be focused on the German culture of Schiller and Goethe.
Thomas Huntke, Germany
From Weimar Republic to the Nazi period – after breakfast we will go by the Victory Column (siegessäule in German), through the June 17th boulevard and Yitzhak Rabin street. In the west part of the boulevard we will find Paris square and the most recognizable symbol of the city – the Brandenburg Gate. We will focus on the Weimar Republic period and the circumstances that abled the Nazis to seize power, and also talk about the nowadays Berlin and its reflections of the past.
We will also see the Central Bank of the famous architect Frank Gehry, the Adlon hotel, Max Liebermanns academy of arts and the embassies of America, Switzerland, Russia, France and England.
Later we will walk on Wilhelm Street and discuss the processes the city went through the rise of the Nazis and the end of the Second World War, which affected every aspect of life: police, military, education, laws and even culture. We will talk about the place of the ordinary citizen in the state, the role of the international system and the appeasement policy. In addition, we will focus about propaganda in former Nazi Germany and the way it is being remembered nowadays in the German collective memory. This is also the place for a break.
We will arrive to Hitler’s bunker, where nowadays there is just a parking lot with a single sign as evidence to the past. We will discuss the end of the war through the story of the bunker itself, and ask how Germany replaced its symbols during the de-nazification process.
Near the bunker there is the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. The opening of the memorial came with a long public debate regarding its nature. The 2,711 grey concrete cubes of different heights invoked a debate – whether Germany can conceive the place and the past or not.
Not far away from that memorial there are other two – the memorial for the homosexuals who were murdered by the Nazis and the memorial for the East Germans who were shot to death while trying to escape to the West.
We will also see the Reichstag, where the German government sits. During the tour in the building we will talk about the political history of the place and the political system of nowadays Germany, about the unique architecture of the place and about the works of art inside it. We will have a coffee break (and a cake) in the café inside the Reichstag.
There are also bits of modern Berlin. We will see the Hauptbahnhof, the ultra-modern central train station of Berlin, which is the biggest glass complex in the world, the offices of the Kanzler Angela Merkel, the kindergarten of the children of the parliament members, the bridge of the German unification and the famous Charité hospital.
We will get out of the city, to the former concentration camp of Sachsenhausen, located in the industrial city Oranienburg.
The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was built in the summer of 1936 by concentration camp prisoners from the Emsland camps. It was the first new camp to be established after Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was appointed Chief of the German Police in 1936. The design of the grounds was conceived by the SS architects as the ideal concentration camp setting, giving architectural expression to the SS worldview, and symbolically subjugating the prisoners to the absolute power of the SS. As a model for other camps, and in view of its location just outside the Reich capital, Sachsenhausen acquired a special role in the National Socialist concentration camp system. This was reinforced in 1938 when the Concentration Camp Inspection Office, the administrative headquarters for all concentration camps within the German sphere of influence, was transferred from Berlin to Oranienburg.
More than 200,000 people were imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp between 1936 and 1945. At first the prisoners were mostly political opponents of the Nazi regime. However, increasing numbers of members of groups defined by the National Socialists as racially or biologically inferior were later included. By 1939 large numbers of citizens from the occupied European states arrived. Tens of thousands of people died of starvation, disease, forced labor and mistreatment, or were victims of the systematic extermination operations of the SS. Thousands of other prisoners died during the death marches following the evacuation of the camp at the end of April 1945. Approximately 3,000 sick prisoners, along with the doctors and nurses who had stayed behind in the camp, were liberated by Soviet and Polish soldiers.
We will enter the camp through the notorious iron gate with the words “Arbeit macht Frei” (The work liberates), and see the exhibition dedicated to the murdered prisoners, located in authentic barracks.
Jewish Berlin – This day will be dedicated to the Jewish community in Berlin, the Integration and rejection it experienced throughout history.
We will begin the day at the new golden dome Synagogue at Oranienburger Street. We will continue walking through Grosse Hamburger Street, where the everyday life of the Jewish community before and during the war will be revealed to us. We will see the Jewish school, Hermann Gallery and the burnt Synagogue.
At Hackescher Markt we will go through a maze of beautiful courtyards, listen to the story of the Jewish people at the 19th century. We will finish at Otto Weidt Museum, a museum dedicated to the man who saved dozens of people during the war.
After a lunchbreak we will go to the unique Jewish museum planned by the architect Daniel Libeskind.
This day would be dedicated to rise and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and to the phenomena called “Ostalgie”, which is still influencing many of the people in former East Germany.
The day begins at the topography of the terror – once the headquarters of the Gestapo, and nowadays a fascinating museum that shows the rise of the regime of fear and terror. From the former headquarters remained only the walls of the basement, where citizens were being tortured. Across the street there still are the former headquarters of the Nazi air force, the “Luftwaffe”, where Hermann Göring was sitting.
In front of the wall art on this building we will discuss the utopia the communist propaganda used to describe to the citizens. We will describe the everyday life in East Germany in relation to work, housing, education and health, and the public resistance to give up its freedom. We will tell the story of the June 17th 1953 revolution and the implications of it on building the wall.
We will see Check Point Charlie, one of the most central transition points between East and West Berlin after the emerging of the wall. There we will have a coffee break.
We will drive through the publishing house of the Axel Springer news corporation, where outside there is a huge statue of a man walking on wall, right where the wall used to be. From there we will proceed to Bernauer Street, to the museum of the Berlin wall. After an observation from the outside we will go inside and listen to stories about escape attempts, and about the church which was demolished in order to make room for the wall.
At the evening we will visit the museum island. The Spree River which flows across the city splits at this part into two ways. Between them there is an island, where starting the 19th century the Germans started opening five museums. We will hear the story of those museums and visit two of them.
We will have dinner at Käthe Kollwitz square, in the former workers neighborhood Prenzlauer Berg, which became in the last decade the new Soho of Berlin.
We will begin at the Bavarian Quarter; there you will be exposed to 30 signs with anti-Jewish laws from the Nazi era. We will visit the memorial site
at the next school and hear about the legislation processes which have led to these laws. We will also visit an exhibition called “WIR WAREN NACHBARN” (we were neighbors), which presents over 150 biographical albums; the most famous biography amongst those belongs to Albert Einstein.
The Tour will be continued at Grunewald, a luxury neighborhood where many Jewish used to live. At the end of this neighborhood you will find the platforms from which were the Jewish deported and sent to the concentration camps. Here we will have a short ceremony in memory of the victims.
We will continue to Villa Wansee, located on Van Lake, and go inside the house in which the critical decision regarding the future of Jewish all over Europe was made.
Our tour continues at Potsdam, the capital city of Brandenburg. We will walk through the, marvelous gardens of Sanssouci palace, the residence of Friedrich the great. We will see Cecilienhof palace, the place at which the famous convention of 1945 took place.
This day will be dedicated to the special story of Dresden, a city that has been completely destroyed during the war, and its unbelievable reconstruction.
On the way there you will be taken to the breathtaking resort called “The Bastei”, once we will arrive to Dresden, we will go through the old market square, the famous Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holly Cross), the new city hall, the women’s church, and Brühl’s Terrace.
On the way to our next destination, the Theater Square, we will see the Landhaus Palace and listen to the fascinating story about the kings of Saxony, the tragic story of the city during the war and its rehabilitation.