Monday, January 21, 2013

January 20th and 21st

January 20th
The first thing we did today was go to the German Film Museum. The permanent exhibit is set up to begin with early films and film-making equipment and then goes chronologically through important movies, actors/actresses and changes in film. In the 1920's and 30's the Berlin film scene was very influential; in some ways it was even  more so than Hollywood. However the rise of the Nazis impacted film heavily as Jewish actors and directors were no longer able to work in this industry, additionally the Nazis only allowed specific types of films to be made and shown in Germany. I thought that seeing the progression of the industry was really cool and I was amazed to learn about some of the movies that the Nazis had made. Just days after the Wannsee conference a Nazi propaganda film was made, the premise of this movie was that the English had concentration camps in South Africa and they were starving and killing the Dutch Boers. The fact that just days after the decision was made to systematically kill millions of people a movie using their same premise would be shown to the German people was truly amazing to me.

After the Film Museum we went to the Anhalter train station where many elderly Jews were deported. Since this was a major train station in the middle of Berlin those deported were out onto third class passenger cars rather than cattle cars and about 50-75 people would be deported at one time instead of many 500-1000. The Nazis did not want to alarm any of the non-Jewish citizens who were on their way to work or traveling, and that is why they changed the way they deported people. The station was bombed during the war and was then demolished in the years following, only the front of the building is still standing.

Following the train station we went to the Deutsches Technikmuseum (the German Technology Museum) to see an exhibit on trains and train cars used during the holocaust. One of the things that I learned was that the head of the railroad during Nazi Germany was not held accountable for being involved with the killing of Jews, he did not see any physical suffering but he did know the amount of Jews being deported and arranged so that it could be completed as a top priority. Its interesting to learn that only recently have people begun to do research on him.

January 21st
Today we went to the Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue, also called the New Synagogue. It was built in 1866 to be the main synagogue for Berlin's Jewish population and was influenced by middle eastern architecture. It was one of the few Jewish Synagogues to survive the Night of Broken Glass in 1938, its survival is mainly accredited to a police captain who made the SA men who were ransacking it leave and then ordered a fire brigade to put out the fires that they had started. The synagogue was badly damaged in the bombings of WWII, and some large parts had to be demolished however it was rebuilt and restored starting in 1989. Some fragments of the original building found in the rubble were used to rebuild and restore the synagogue. Inside it looks like a ruin from hundreds of years ago, and its hard to remember that most of the damage was done not even 80 years ago. Inside a museum of Jewish culture and the history of the church has been established, there is also a small congregation that uses a few of the restored rooms upstairs.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Vienna, Austria.

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