of Veterinary Medicine
A lovely Sunday started with the typical scrumptious German hotel breakfast before heading out for the day. The plan was to take a bicycle tour of sites important to Third Reich history. Fortunately, the bicycle shop also offered rather cheap laundry, so one of our companions took us up on the opportunity to have some clothes cleaned.
So where does one begin with the Nazi history of Berlin? It is probably only a matter of location in this case. We met our tour group at the Fernsehturm near Alexanderplatz. After a short introduction into the wherewithal of city bike travel, we were on our way. First we visited the Rosenstrasse Memorial. This memorial commemorates a nonviolent protest, which took place in February and March of 1943 by the non-Jewish wives and relatives of Jewish men who had been arrested. Eventually the men were released, one of the few instances when opposition to the events of the Holocaust were successful. Next up were Oranienburger Strasse and the notable Neue Synagogue. Built in the mid 1800s, it was the main synagogue of the Berlin Jewish community. It is an important architectural monument of 19th century Berlin. It was the largest synagogue in Europe and was actually spared during the Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, on November 9, 1938.Another point of note scattered across Berlin are the Stolpersteine or “stumbling stones” that can be found around the city in sidewalks. They memorialize individual victims of Nazism, those who were deported and killed mostly in concentrations camps. These include Jews, gypsies, members of the Resistance, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christians in opposition to the Nazis, and the disabled. Yet another location important in history and prejudice is Bebelplatz, site of the Nazi book burning. On May 10, 1933, members of the SA, SS, Nazi students and Hitler Youth groups burned around 20,000 books, including some by Thomas Mann, Karl Marx and many others. Instigated by Nazi propaganda mastermind Joseph Goebbels, this event helped to start and expand the Nazi party in Berlin.Next on our trip was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This massive memorial consists of concrete slabs arranged at varying heights and angles. The contrasting Memorial to the Murdered Homosexuals is nearby. As we continued on our tour we stopped briefly to visit the Reichstag, one of the staples of Berlin history. Oddly enough Adolf Hitler never even went inside the building. In front and to the side is the Memorial to the Murdered Parliamentarians, those who voted against Hitler and eventually gave their lives. Also on our way was the Valkyrie Resistance Memorial, the home of the Stauffenberg Memorial, where the attempted coup and murder against Hitler reached its fateful end when Claus von Stauffenberg was killed by firing squad. Also something of interest was the Bismarck Monument, one of hundreds built in honor of the statesman. The Victory Column is also one of many monuments erected in memory of a victory in war or battle throughout the world. The column in Berlin commemorates the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War, the Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco-Prussian War.Before long it was time to stop for lunch near the Berlin Zoo, the Berlin Zoological Garden to be more exact. As the FIFA World Cup was going on, everyone in the group had a good time cheering for their team of choice over food and drinks. After lunch we headed on to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Located in the heart of the former West Berlin, the remnants of the impressive church serve as a constant reminder to the impact of war. Last but certainly not least, we ended at Hitler’s Bunker. Below the New Reich Chancellery, it was in this subterranean bunker that Hitler and his wife spent the last few weeks of the war and where their lives came to an end. Although the bike tour may have ended on a somber and serious note, overall the experience was excellent and well worth the time and money. As it made a rather long day for us, we eventually decided to head back, take a nap, and get ready to join the rest of the crew for our next meal of the day.
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