The History department visited Berlin this October, for a five-day visit centred on looking at the sites and sights of this historic and yet excitingly modern city. Our focus is on the places where key events of the Weimar Republic, Third Reich and Cold War took place, to allow students to see, touch and experience the history in their GCSE work and bring it to life in a way which enhances their understanding on their return.
Visits to the Palace of Tears at Friedrichstraße Station, the Berlin Wall Museum at Bernauer Straße, the Stasi Museum and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum all help to give a flavour of Cold War Berlin, and demonstrate the trials of life in the rather tense environment at the very front line of the conflict between ideologies.
We also visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, a humbling and emotional experience for everyone, which helps fulfil a key social duty for our history students in witnessing the places where the holocaust was perpetrated in order to keep alive the memory of those who died, and to help the future free of the repetition of such mistakes through a verification of the facts of the past.
A highlight of the visit are long walking tours around the city taking in the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, the Cathedral, the Old and New Museums, the Soviet Memorial and many more places. It is also a singular experience to stand in an innocuous car park in a residential street, only to discover one is standing on the unmarked site of Hitler’s bunker, metres from where he met his end.
With a trip to the top of the TV Tower and to the top of the dome on the Reichstag (designed by Sir Norman Foster) also on the itinerary, and an evening of bowling and dinner close to the Brandenburg gate, the visit is one which gives many fine memories and experiences to our students, and certainly enhances their understanding of key elements of the GCSE curriculum. It is a very popular visit, and this year we took two thirds of the history cohort. They were not disappointed.