A Personal Lesson in German History
Have you read Author Dieter Kermas recent article “Das Erste Mal Durch Die Mauer?” If not, I highly recommend it. I find it very fascinating to hear about experiences from people who have lived during a time of major historic events. Back in the days, when my grandma from my mother’s side was still alive, I begged her to keep telling me stories about World War ІІ. Since I (obviously) wasn’t alive at that time, I tried to imagine how life was back then through my grandma’s stories. And boy, did she have experiences to share!
She explained to me how she felt the earth shaking from bomb fire while she and her family were puckered up in an underground bunker. Another story consisted of her sister losing her baby while in the bunker because of a lack of breast milk. She also told me how it felt to be part of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female youth organization during the Nazi regime, which was part of the Hitler Youth.
I was beyond impressed by what my grandmother had to live through during her long life. The world we live in today is far from peaceful; we do live in a time surrounded by war and terrorism. Thankfully, so far I wasn’t personally impacted, meaning that I haven’t lost a relative or friend through a terror attack nor was I the victim of one. I would not know how to deal with something that terrible, while my grandma endured several losses and tragedies in her lifetime.
These personal experiences really sparked my interest in history. Unfortunately, I had a really bad history teacher during High School, who made the subject unbearable and unnecessarily boring. Due to that, I lost interest in the subject, and my hunger for experiencing German history myself kind of subsided for the next couple years.
I know it might be a shame to admit, but I had never visited Berlin until 2010. I just didn’t really feel the urge to travel much around Germany when I was younger. That changed after I came back from my Au Pair stay. I developed an incredible urge to travel, and if it would just be for a weekend.
It just so happened that one of my Au Pair friends, who I met in the states, moved to Berlin after she came back from the U.S. She invited my other good Au Pair friend Doreen (name changed due to privacy) and me to come visit her in Berlin. Finally I was going to visit the capital of the country I grew up in and could experience a grand piece of German history first hand.
My friends and I crammed every possible Berlin sight into our two day stay. Of course, we couldn’t miss the Brandenburger Gate or the German Parliament. But the monuments that struck me the most were the Holocaust Memorial and the remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall. Those brought back the imaginations, and I was finally able to grasp what my grandmother used to tell me about.
While at the Holocaust Memorial, some darkness overcame me. Not from the clouds in the sky that were hanging above us that day, but rather from what the Holocaust represented during World War ІІ. It was beyond saddening to see those hundreds of ceramic stones on the cold ground, each one representing the victims of the horrendous concentration camps. We can all just pray that something like this is never going to repeat itself.
Checking out the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall, also known as the “East Side Gallery”, which represents freedom, was more uplifting. I don’t remember any of the news coverage from 1989 when the wall fell, but seeing those monument parts from such a big part of German history was just amazing. Each of those pieces still represents the fate and pain so many people had to endure during that certain time period.
This trip definitely had an impact on me and made me realize how appreciative we can be of not having to endure a world war at first hand. Let’s keep praying that it will stay that way.
Images: © Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.