Saturday, July 5, 2008

Selections from Journal Entries

Okay quick update: I am home. Flight from Frankfurt to London Heathrow was delayed for 3 hours (we literally sat on the plane on the ground for 3 hours) and so they upgraded us to business class for our flight from London to Dallas. SWEETNESS! I'm spoiled now and never want to fly coach again. Haha. The only downer was that everyone in our group's luggage did not make our flight from London to Dallas, so I didn't get that until last night, but over all, everything was great.

Miss Germany already.

These are some selections from journal entries we were required to do for one of our classes in Germany. Feel free to comment on them, I'd love it if my blog became a center for philosophical conversations, haha. I'm typing them up because we have to use them for a paper that is due at the end of the month. As I type different ones up I will post them here.

June 4, 2008 [Town Hall Museum in Leipzig about the city]

The paintings of the crucifixion in the museum made an impression on me. They were so bloody, which was strange to me. We do see blood in depections of Christ on the cross, but these paintings showed drops of blood on Jesus from head to toe, as if he had cuts, tons of them, spread out all over his body with drops of blood spilling out of them.

I think that as Americans (maybe everyone in the world, really) with medical technology advancing as it is, we try to avoid death and pain so much and that we don’t like to even have to think about suffering. We don’t want to imagine the degree to which others suffer. There’s a fundamental problem here. We must learn to allow ourselves to feel unpleasant things, how else will we grow from them?

June 6, 2008 [Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin]

Today was a busy and exhausting day, both physically and mentally. We visited the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial [technically named the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe], Checkpoint Charlie, and the Topography of Terror site [SS Museum].

There were many things we saw today that were hard to see. The site that left the biggest impression was of course the Memorial for the European Jews. I still can’t quite organize my thoughts on everything I saw but I will attempt to do so.

One quote from the room that had excerpts from letters people had written is that you “didn’t have to be revolutionary…[it was] enough to simply be oneself” to find yourself in a concentration camp. The physical and psychological terror of being imprisoned in a concentration camp simply because you are who you are is a foreign idea to us because we of course, as Americans, have always been free to be whoever we want to be.

A startling fact I learned was that it would take 6+ years to recite al the names of all the victims of the Holocaust. There was a room at the memorial dedicated to reciting the names of the known victims and a short biography of what is known about that person. It was deeply moving to be present there, where these victims finally get a time and place just especially for them, in their honor and dedicated to their memory.

June 7, 2008 [Walking tour of Berlin/Berlin Wall]

The memorial for the parliament members who were murdered is one of the more memorable parts of our tour for me. As our guide was talking about how the laws were passed giving special powers to the Nazis because of it being a “time of crisis,” I immediately thought of the Patriot Act. [I do not wish to start a political battle on my blog, but I believe most reasonable people can at least see the parallel here, even if only vaguely.]

Something our tour guide said that struck me was that Germany has a hard time feeling pride in their country, due to their dark past. I had never thought of that before, and think of how proud we all feel in America of our country. We are quite patriotic and are unashamed of country most of the time. But it’s also not as if America’s past is blemish free. Food for thought.

The other main thing that struck me is something that we’ve all heard before and that we hear a lot: knowledge is power. At the book burning memorial across from Humboldt University, we learned how tons of books from the university library were burned because they encouraged independent thought. The Nazis knew if people started thinking for themselves they wouldn’t want to go along with the party’s ideas. There’s a famous quote by I can’t remember who at this memorial that says, “Where they burn books, there they will burn people also.” It was written before the Holocaust began, and is eerily prophetic.

In regards to the Berlin wall, while the wall itself has fallen, there is this concept in Germany called “the wall in the head.” It can most easily be defined as the separations between east and west Germans that still exists in some ways. One such example of the wall in the head is the ampel man. The ampel man is their image on the walk/don’t walk signs at cross walks. There’s the east and west version of this image, and today there’s still a bit of a debate on whether they should leave the ones in east Germany alone, or if they should all go to a standardized image. Of course westerners think theirs should be the one everyone should switch to, and vice versa. So you can see just one small example of a bigger problem that still exists for them.

Speaking of the wall in the head, it makes me think of our walls we put up here in America. Republicans and democrats, Christians and non-Christians, whites and blacks, young and old, Americans and immigrants, etc. This wall in the head is not exclusive to Germans.