Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 9 - Monday, October 3

We were met by Udo, our guide for the day, at 9 am. Today is Unity Day, a national holiday across Germany.  Unity day is celebrated today to commemorate the anniversary of German reunification in 1990.  Unity day is not on November 9 (the day the wall came down) because that is also the anniversary of the day the first large-scale Nazi programs were launched against the Jews.
We started by strolling though an East Berlin Jewish neighborhood on our way to the Berlin Wall Memorial. The memorial was very moving; learning about its construction and renovation over the years of the GDR.  136 people were known to be killed at the wall, including 42 children and teenagers.  Eight soldiers were shot, some trying to escape others were just accidents.  The memorial was at a site where the wall went through a cemetary and a church.  Many of those in the cemetary were moved, however it is not known if graves of those who died in the war were relocated.  The church was in East Belin, but its parishoners (approximately 90% of the congregation) were predominantly from the west.  The ruling party in the east never liked the church and it was eventually demolished.  A new structure has been built on its site.  The line between east and west also included many homes that were also destroyed to make room for the wall.  When the newest wall was built, there was a well lit zone with no vegitation that was known as the Death Strip.  We found out that the walls looked very familiar to us because they were 4 meter high walls for corn silage.
After that we walked to the Minister's Garden, which is normally not opened to the public.  However, as today is a national holiday, they have a huge festival in all of the buildings.  The Minister's Garden is the location for local headquarters of the 16 German states.  The German states are represented in another house of parliment and serve a purpose similar to our senate.  Each building had beautiful architecture and featured booths with food and drink from their native states.
Following that we walked through the holocaust memorial; it is a heart wrenching experience to learn the tormented history of the Jewish people under Hitler's rule.  Above the information center are 2,711 cement pillars that you can walk through which makes it a truely breathtaking site.
In the afternoon we had kaffee and kuchen and hopped on a train to Hamburg and then to Rendsburg.

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