It’s hard for me to say we had a great time in Berlin because it was a somber experience being there, remembering so much tragedy.
While we were in Berlin and surrounding areas there were two terrorist attacks in Germany. When our family heard the news in the US, they checked in to make sure we were ok. Fortunately, we weren’t near the places where the attacks took place, but we felt the heightened sense of anxiety from the people here. For me it made remembering and learning about the past that much more meaningful and important. We are at an pivotal time in our history as well, and hopefully we will be able to defeat intolerance, genocide, and discrimination just as they did before.
It was interesting trying to teach the boys about The Nazi’s and Communism. They just kept asking, “But why would the people choose that kind of government?” or “Why didn’t anyone do anything to help them?” They just can’t even fathom what it would be like to not be free. Frankly, it’s hard for me too. We are so blessed that we live in a country where we have the freedom to choose. That freedom comes on the backs of so many who died to make and keep us that way. I am so grateful for all of them and to be from a country that values freedom and diversity.
The historical sights in Berlin are a representation of what happens when evil is able to take root and thrive. As we visited The Holocaust Memorial-Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe we were reminded of the evils of The Nazis. At first I thought the name of the memorial was a little bit strongly worded, but then I realized we can’t gloss over the atrocities that happened. They need to be remembered so that they NEVER happen again.
Next we visited The Brandenburg Gate. It was at this spot in 1987 that Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech saying, “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.” I remember this happening! I can’t believe that it was such a short time ago that ALL the people of Germany were given the freedom that we take for granted everyday. The wall he talked about was put up because people were fleeing East Germany into West Germany because of the communist government. In response, East Germany came up with a way to stop the mass exodus.
On the evening of August 12-13 1961, while most of Berlin was sleeping, trucks with soldiers and construction workers came to the border and constructed a barbed wire border between East and West Berlin. Telephone lines were cut as well. The people of Berlin woke up to a city split in two. This separated family, friends, an entire people from one another. The fortunate ones had already crossed to West Germany. The others were essentially held prisoner in their own country. Again, this was difficult to explain to our kids. The idea that you couldn’t choose where you lived, your job, your life.
We also visited Checkpoint Charlie, the most common crossing point in the wall between East and West Germany. It became a symbol of the Cold War representing the separation of the East and West. This is also the spot where Soviet and American tanks briefly faced each other during the Berlin Crisis of 1961.
As we rode our bikes around Berlin back and forth from what used to be East and West Germany it was hard to believe that a wall split this city in two in the not too distant past. It was not all sadness though…I also felt hope. I was hopeful that oppressive governments that still exist in the world today can be changed. That people who still live in bondage can be free. It made me hopeful that people could be riding safely around with their children in the future, splashing in fountains, buying treats, playing at parks, yet still remembering a past that they hope to never repeat.
I am so grateful for the time we spent in Berlin because it gave us the opportunity to reflect on the past and what brought us to where we are today. It is so important to remember that past, to learn and grow from it, or we are doomed to repeat it.
On a lighter note…Aren’t these crosswalk signals in Berlin the cutest thing!
And for those of you worried Luke was going to starve while we were away because he is such a picky eater, he did have his first incident of not eating for so long that he made himself sick (he puked on the street right by our table at breakfast…very appetizing). It was a good lesson for him though! Now he knows when we say, “You need to eat or you will get sick!”, we know what we are talking about!