Today, we visited many different museums and monuments in Berlin.
We began our day by walking outside our hotel and visiting the Burning of the Books monument.
The Burning of the Books happened in 1933 when the Nazis made people pile books up and then burnt them all. There were more than 20,000 books piled and burnt. The Nazis hated free thinkers and intellectuals, so they took away all the books that people could read so they would become smarter. The monument is all underground and the only way you can see it is through glass pane that is above the monument. The physical monument was only empty bookshelves that had the capacity of 20,000 books. The Burning of the Books Monument was directly across from the entrance to our hotel. During the time of the Book Burning, our hotel was an old bank building.
During World War Two, a Soviet Movie Maker wanted to make a movie of the Soviet forces storming the Royal Castle in Berlin. When he made the movie, there were no blanks for the Soldiers to fire, so they used real ammunition and destroyed the castle.
During the time of the Berlin Wall, the East Berliners had to go to the travel building to get permission to travel to West Germany or West Berlin. Most of the time when someone applied to travel to the West, their application was denied. So, on every Monday in 1989, people would have protests called “Monday Demonstrations.” The East Berlin Government eventually got so fed up with it that they asked their big brother, the Soviet Union, for help. Although the Soviet Union had the Americans to deal with so they left the East Berlin Government to deal with it. Eventually, because the East Berlin Government didn’t want to start killing all the people, it led to the reunification of Germany. In East Berlin, Joseph Stalin wanted a street that reminded him of Moscow. So, there is still a street that has many World War Two Soviet architecture buildings on it.
Our next stop was a section of the Berlin Wall. The wall was about a thick ten foot tall concrete wall. On top of the wall there was a rounded sewage pipe so nobody could grab onto it and climb over. Many sections were all painted on because when the wall went down, people painted on it. The Berlin wall was built in 1961 so people on the Eastern side of Berlin couldn’t cross over to Western Berlin where the allied side was. The Berlin Wall is 145 kilometers long and has what is known as the “Death Strip” in between barbed wire fences and the wall. The Death Strip is a long strip of raked sand with trip wire machine guns, razor wire, mines and lookout towers for Soviet soldiers to see anyone going through. If that isn’t hard enough to go through, there is the Berlin Wall at the end of it.
Our next stop is the DDR museum which is a museum that is based on life in Berlin during the Berlin Wall. During life in the Berlin Wall, there was only one type of car.
A simple two door, four seater car. The car was only made of hardened cardboard and plastic. Although, the government officials were an exception, they had very sturdy metal cars. This was only true for East Berlin, you could have any car in West Berlin. The car was a two stroke engine death trap. When people would try to escape, they would hide inside the trunk or under the seats. We also got to see what the homes looked like. They were very simple homes with all the rooms compacted into a small space. We also saw many of the escape methods. Some people even flew in a hot air balloon to get to West Berlin. Most people were smuggled over in cars. Some people dug tunnels to the other side. It was interesting learning about life in the Berlin Wall Era.
Our next stop was the Brandenburg Gate. The Brandenburg Gate is a very large gate where all the Nazis paraded themselves around. On top there is a lady holding a staff with the Prussian Eagle and the Iron Cross. The lady is in a chariot being pulled by horses.
Next, we went to the Spy Museum that had a ton of WWII James Bond-like gadgets for spying. They had a glove that had a pistol on it, shoes with ammunition under the bottoms and a bow-tie camera. In the Cold War the US would train dolphins to recover sunken nuclear missiles in the ocean, and it was all recorded with camera. The Spy Museum was really interesting.
Next, we went to the Jewish memorial, commemorating the Holocaust and the millions of Jews that were murdered by the Nazis. There are 2,711 stones and 43 trees. The monument is a large complex of many stones randomly arranged with a path that goes up and down. The monument is supposed to make you feel lost, or alone without your family like many Jews or makes you feel like someone is coming to get you when you are scared and alone in the maze. Like when Nazis came for Jews trying to get away. The monument was very beautiful and moving.
Our next stop was Hitler’s bunker where he committed suicide. Right now, it is a parking lot. There is no statue or remnant of the Bunker or Hitler. It was brilliant of the German Government to do that, so nobody can pay tribute to Hitler.
We also went to a memorial wall that detailed all of the Nazi history, from the pre-war period when Germany was suffering and Nazis won power, to the war, the holocaust and the horrors of the Nazi period during World War II. It was placed next to the Berlin Wall where the headquarters of the Gestapo secret police was. It is now just a bombed out ruins.
Our final destination was the Victory Column. The column originally had only three rings for three victories against, Austria, France and Denmark. Although now there are four. The fourth was added by Hitler who thought he was going to win World War Two. I think he jinxed himself by doing so.
We had a great day touring the city of Berlin.
ps. When John F Kennedy came to Berlin to negotiate with Kruschev from the Soviet Union, he stood up to the Soviets and then gave a passionate speech about always protecting Berlin and freedom and said: “Every man should be proud to say ‘ich bin ein berliner!'” Unfortunately, because he did not speak German that well and people in Berlin call jelly donuts ‘Berliners’ he actually finished his speech by saying “I am a jelly donut!” Funny.