Year 10 Visit Berlin

IMG_4554web2Year 10 was a credit to the school on the Berlin trip in May this year with 43 students taking the 18 hour coach ride across Europe to the German capital. The city has been central to their studies of the Weimar Republic, the Nazis and the Cold War and visits to famous sites brought classroom studies to the next level.
Having arrived in Berlin at 1pm, pupils dropped their bags at the hostel and immediately went for a tour of the DDR museum which gave fascinating insights into ordinary people’s lives behind the “Iron Curtain”. Trying the Trabi simulator was good fun whilst a mock-up Stasi cell brought home to pupils the repressive nature of the regime. A rare guided tour to one of the few remaining Second World War bunkers also brought out the feelings of ordinary Berliners during British and American air raids.
The Holocaust is always an important feature of teaching Nazi Germany so a visit to Sachsenhausen concentration camp is essential for school parties to Berlin. After the visit, James Simmonds reflected that “As soon as you entered…the air turned heavy, and the impact of death and misery hit.” Benj Rutherford similarly noted that “the sheer size of the camp itself hit me the hardest”. The visit certainly had a marked effect on all of the pupils. This was backed up by a visit to the beautiful area of Wannsee where the meeting which agreed the “Final Solution” was convened by Heydrich.
A tour of the Olympic Stadium finished the day’s site-seeing with a behind-the-scenes tour. Evenings were morBerlin 2014web1e relaxed with pupils eating in restaurants around Potsdammerplatz. Many sampled local delicacies like Currywurst.  A meal together on the last evening to the Hard Rock Café was also enjoyed with the concrete guitar made out of the Berlin Wall a particular favourite.
A walking tour of Berlin’s major sites including the Brandenburg Gate, diplomatic area, Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terror exhibition kept the site-seeing going at a quick rate. The site of Colonel Stauffenberg’s execution, made famous in the film Valkyrie, was a good opportunity to consider the opposition to the Nazis which had been studied in class by pupils. A preserved section of the Berlin Wall “death strip” was also visited with pupils being challenged to consider the importance of politics on the lives of ordinary people in the divided city.
The last day consisted of a trip up the iconic TV tower, a little shopping time for souvenirs, a visit to the spectacular Berlinerdom and a final visit to Neue Wache; Berlin’s equivalent of the tomb of the unknown soldier. Pupils reflected on the different ways in which Germany considers the past and the tragic sense of loss which many in the country feel in relation to the Nazi regime, the horrors of the world wars and the trauma of division.
Mr Griffin’s favourite trip was a privileged opportunity to go into the Reichstag building. This was a good time to reflect on the way in which Germany is moving forward with a democratic future and the new hope perceivable in the last 20 years. The backdrop of the Berlin skyline at sunset was spectacular and the new glass dome on the top of the building offered outstanding views.
Pupils returned tired but with a far greater depth of understanding. The trip mixed fun with informative and moving experiences which pupils will not forget quickly. The staff and pupils all had a great time and there was an excellent positive feeling in the group throughout the time away. One parent noted that her son had “a great balance of both moving and fun cultural experiences”. A future trip the USA is planned for next summer which aims to continue the excellent range of trips available to pupils at Seaford.

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