Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Our Final Day in Europe
June 15th, 2011
On our last day, we found that the tour sites did not evoke as much emotion because we did not get firsthand accounts related to them from the veterans; nevertheless, we continued to learn much about the end of World War II and the Cold War from Ray. We started at the Soviet War Memorial. We were shocked to find out that 300,000 Soviet soldiers lost their lives taking Berlin while 400,000 American soldiers died during all of World War II. These statistics were staggering. Stalin wanted Berlin captured quickly and was not concerned with how many lives it took to do so. His own soldiers paid the price in blood.
Our next stop was a memorial for the people who were killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall. After that, we went to the Brandenburg Gate, the center of the Soviet death strip and one of the most prominent symbols of division in Berlin during the Cold War. Within blocks of the Gate was the Reichstag, where a fierce battle between German and Soviet troops took place. We also walked to the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,” which is the German Holocaust memorial. This memorial is comprised of huge slabs laid out in rows, creating a sort of maze. The designers did so with the hopes that the disorientation and confusion that visitors felt would provide a very small insight into the disorientation and confusion that the Jewish people felt as their lives were torn apart.
The stop we looked forward to most, however, was the location of the bunker in which Adolf Hitler committed suicide. The bunker was purposely destroyed on December 5, 1947, by the Soviets to prevent the site from becoming a memorial to Hitler. All that remains now is a parking lot and apartments with one sign telling the story of what happened there. Our next stop was Checkpoint Charlie, a point in the Berlin Wall where American, French, and British citizens could cross from West to East Berlin according to the terms of the Potsdam Conference. However, they were only allowed a 24-hour pass. The final stop on our tour was the Soviet Victory Museum. The Germans unconditionally surrendered to the Soviets here on May 9, 1945. This peace treaty was the second one signed. The first was in France, but the Soviets were unsatisfied with the wording of the terms, so they demanded a second treaty. For this reason, the West celebrates VE Day on May 8 and the East on May 9.
We concluded our tour with a farewell dinner at the hotel. We leave for home early tomorrow morning! See you all soon and we have so much to share with each of you!
Posted by Jessie Rogers, Ashley Workman, Shirley Rash, and Trevor Hicks