Berlin: What Learning 100 Years Of History Taught Me About Humans

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We landed, got to the hostel and headed straight to the Berlin wall. Only having four days in which to see Berlin, we wanted to make the most of it and indeed, we did. It was the first time visiting the city for both my friend and I and we knew there was so much to see and do.

Being a late October day, the cold had started to get heavier by late afternoon. We stood and read the endless realms of information regarding what had happened, why the wall had been constructed and the stories and photos of those who had attempted escape from one side of the wall to the other.

Free museums around the city meant that over the course of our time there, we could absorb as much or as little as we liked. The rest of the information was filled in for us by a free walking tour we did with an experienced tour guide. With her, we visited parts of the city, learned of where bombs had gone off, where protests had taken place and, of the whereabouts of Adolf Hitler’s final hiding place before his alleged suicide. The true stories we heard became more and more common as the weekend went on – hearing so many shocking stories, they began to lose the shock factor after quite a while.

 

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Celebrating the weekend with beer was clearly also a prerogative which meant that there were some evenings spent in bars. This included typical German beer pubs, night clubs and other miscellaneous locations of which there were plenty. Therefore, an early start to head to Berlin’s nearby concentration camp memorial Sachsenhausen on the Sunday of our trip needed to be faced with a hangover. Such a visit meant that all the history we had heard already would now be slightly over-shadowed by the stories of torture and murder of thousands of victims during Hitler’s reign. The heaviness of such a day could only be greeted with silence – nothing else would do.

Having learned so much I had’t been aware of and facing so much history head on could be seen as an odd weekend away by some. However it has to be said that visiting such memorials is vital in order to understand what can and has happened in the world when certain outrageous ideologies aren’t challenged.

One of the most interesting points made by a particular tour guide was regarding the guards who worked in the concentration camp. The routines that were in place were set up in a way to normalise the position as if to make it seem like any other job out there. There were lunch breaks, holidays and perks of the job. And so, heading home at the end of a work day was externally a normal day. Internally though, you have to wonder what they were thinking, right? They got into a role that they were made to believe was normal. Did some of them question it? Surely. But there were hundreds of them that did it and got their paycheque for doing so.

This got me thinking.

As humans, we can make choices each day as regards what we think is right or wrong. If we take a look at history, we know that powerful and manipulative leaders have the power to allow people to follow what they say by appealing to their insecurities. Basic values can go out the window for the sake of the feeling of belonging to something and for many, to get ahead in the world.

If there’s anything that resonated with me in Berlin, it was this:

If you have an idea, go for it (assuming it’s in line with open-ness and won’t harm others).

Seeing something happening that isn’t in line with your values? Say something.

Feeling jaded and not sure if you have the energy to fight for what you believe? Still fight.

For the day that’s in it, this point is more true than ever. Just because someone gets voted into a position of power that you don’t agree with, doesn’t mean you lose your power. Use your voice, do good where you wish and continue to be the powerful force that you can be.