Berlin Trip Offers Students Unique Perspective

Berlin Trip Offers Students Unique Perspective

At the February half-term, 32 History and Politics students in Years 12 and 13 went on a 3-day study trip to Berlin.  With a focus on the Cold War and its legacy, as well as the ideology of socialism, the aim of the trip was to help bring the reality of particular historic events and policies to life for the students.

Students were completely immersed into life in Berlin – either walking everywhere or using the tram or U-Bahn (Berlin’s equivalent of the Underground) to travel around.  Highlights of the visit included:

  • A day at what’s left of the Berlin Wall, including the important Cold War site, Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery. The latter, in particular, is the longest surviving section of the wall (at 1,316 metres).  In 1990, 100 artists from over 20 countries decorated this piece of the wall with their artwork, the most famous of which is the ‘Fraternal Kiss’.  It’s therefore become an open-air gallery and now enjoys protected memorial status.
  • A visit to the new Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Centre. The Centre includes background information on the history and politics behind the building of the Berlin Wall and includes an observation tower which overlooks a section of the original border between East and West Berlin.
  • A day exploring life in the former East Germany, including:
    • The DDR Museum – this fascinating museum, which was a very high-tech hands-on experience also included a mock-up of a typical East German flat, bringing to life the reality of everyday living for those living on the Eastern side of the divided city, as well as a simulated drive in a ‘Trabi’. (The Trabant – or ‘Trabi’ as it became known – was an East German manufactured car which came to symbolise the former DDR.  Most of its bodywork was made of plastic!).
    • Guided tour of the ‘Hohenschoenhausen Memorial’, a former Stasi Prison, which housed those who were opponents of the GDR, those caught helping others escape as well as political prisoners.
  • A day visiting the Europa Experience which, through a series of interactive stations, offers a hands-on way of getting to know what the EU is, how it functions and how its citizens can influence its actions – and all the information is available in all 24 of the official EU languages.

Students also enjoyed a guided walking tour of the city which took in the infamous ‘Fuehrerbunker’ where Hitler spent his last days, as well as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which occupies a site covering 19,000m2.  Students also had the opportunity to climb the Reichstag Dom with views of both the city, parliament and government district.  And in between all that they even found time to eat and sleep!

It was therefore a tiring but fascinating trip for students, all of whom are far too young to remember the division (or even reunification) of both Berlin and Germany.  Speaking after the visit Assistant Head of Faculty, Miss Cassedy, said, “Berlin is unique in that it has this rich history of two completely different and opposing political ideologies, which sat side by side throughout so many key periods of 20th Century history and yet were completely cut-off from each other.  The trip offered students a real window into life under a totalitarian, communist dictatorship.”

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