Very early on the morning of 18 October 2016, the Year 10 and Year 11 GCSE History students embarked upon an exciting 4-day excursion to Berlin. Our objective was to learn more about some of the important landmarks of Germany’s famous past and discover the stories (or should I say “histories”) present beneath the everyday streets of the city.
Accompanied by our fabulous and extremely knowledgeable guide from Anglia Tours, Sam Noble, we gained detailed knowledge about the significance of the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament, the Brandenburg Gate, and of course, the Berlin Wall, to name a few. We visited the Olympic Stadium which was built for the 1936 Olympics and was used by Hitler as a venue to try and impress the world with his twisted propaganda.
On a much more sombre note, we also spent some time at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Plotzensee prison and Gleis 17 (platform 17) which was used to transport trains carrying thousands and thousands of mostly Jewish people to their dark destinations. Witnessing these places was quite moving and unsettling and several of us shed tears for those who lived and died during this period of inhumane atrocities. The discussions we had as a group were very helpful as we tried to make sense of what happened during that period in Germany’s history.
However, the trip was not all doom and gloom! The dark and disastrous was set aside for some fun as well! We enjoyed our time at Hard Rock Cafe Berlin, dining out at various locations and shopping in the trendy streets of Germany’s capital city. A chance encounter with Josh Dun from the music group Twenty One Pilots in the streets of Berlin reminded us that this historic city with its horribly dark past has moved forward and is now a modern, thriving urban centre. But the imposing monuments, the many memorials to those who lost their lives unnecessarily and the preserved buildings of the past serve as a stark reminder – and warning – of what was once permitted to happen there. In this way, the past will always be a part of the present.
Overall, I believe that each participant has gained a much broader and deeper understanding of Germany’s history by visiting the actual sites where significant events of the past took place. The unexpected emotions and feelings that this experience evoked provide a new awareness and meaning behind the printed words in the class textbook and I would definitely recommend the trip to future year groups.
On behalf of all the Manor House students who participated in this incredible history trip, I would like to say a huge thank you to Ms St. Johnston and Ms Grindrod for being the chaperones and organising this educationally beneficial opportunity.
Jennifer Gilchrist, S10G