November 8, 2018

Berlin – 23rd to 27th October 2018

Before the half term holiday, 24 boys in Years 10 to 12 visited Berlin to deepen their knowledge of the units they are studying in their GCSE and A Level History courses.  The boys arrived on a very cold and wet Tuesday afternoon and began the trip with a sobering experience visiting Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.  The boys were moved by the exhibitions showing items of clothing and amenities used by the prisoners and were understandably saddened to see the gas chambers.  A Berlin at night tour on the way back to their hotel gave the boys some things to think about before an early start on Wednesday.

A three-hour walking tour of Berlin was first on Wednesday’s agenda, where boys took in a number of sights including the Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten and the famous Bebelplatz – site of the Nazi Book Burning as featured in The Book Thief.  They also visited the site of Hitler’s bunker, as well as Jewish memorials including the cemetery, synagogue and the 2711 concrete slabs that make up the Holocaust memorial.  After tucking into some of the local cuisine for lunch, (schnitzel and currywurst were definitely a hit!) they climbed the 270 steps to the top of the Victory Column for fabulous views across Berlin, followed by a fabulous guided tour of the Resistance Museum and site of Von Stauffenberg’s office, a favourite of Mr Dixon and brought to life the film Valkyrie.  Wednesday evening was a highlight of the trip.  The boys were privileged to secure a rare guided tour of the German Bundestag (parliament) inside the Reichstag Building where the boys got to knock on Angela Merkel’s office door and sit in the plenary chambers.  After a busy day and Mrs Black clocking up 38000 steps, it was definitely time for bed!

On Thursday they travelled a little out of Berlin to have two excellent tours of the Villa Wannsee, where the conference was held by Nazi officials in 1942 to decide upon the ‘final solution to the Jewish problem.’  A very surreal experience indeed.  This was followed by a visit to the Cecilienhof Palace – site of the famous Potsdam Conference between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in 1945.   After another busy day they rounded off with a relaxing visit to the cinema to see hit musical A Star Is Born.

After spending a lot of time looking at the Nazi regime, their final day in Berlin was dedicated to exploring Germany’s Cold War years and Berlin as a divided city.  They began the morning with a tour of the longest preserved section of the Berlin Wall on the famous Bernauer Strasse and later in the afternoon also visited the DDR museum to learn about life in Eastern Germany in the period.  The day also called for a spot of shopping and culture, with some time in Alexanderplatz, a visit up the 230-metre-high TV Tower for some breath-taking 360degree views of Berlin, popping into the Lindt store for chocolate supplies and the purchase of some cosy Russian ushanka hats for some the boys! They finished off with a fun night’s bowling – a great end to an amazing trip.  The boys were a credit to the school, with many of our tour guides commenting on their excellent knowledge, questions and degree of empathy shown at some rather emotional experiences.  The boys learned so much they definitely needed the remainder of the half term break to let it all sink in, and to give their legs a rest!