Germany tour gives pupils insight into Nazi and Cold War history

Pupils at Berlin Wall

On the last morning of term, 43 third to fifth year pupils departed on the History department’s latest tour to Germany.

The trip was designed to cater for all age groups attending and covered Nazi and Cold War history, as well as offering some cultural experiences.

Munich was first on the itinerary and a weary group arrived in time for a welcome breakfast. What followed were a superb couple of days, blessed with fantastic weather.

Pupils on German History tripAfter a teacher-led trip to central Munich, the group was split into two and engaged on a tour of the city, bringing in sights such as the rooms where Adolf Hitler joined the Nazi party, the sites of the Munich Putsch of 1923, the university, where youth opposition to the Nazis was conducted by the White Rose group, and the Nazi-built art gallery to name a few.

We enjoyed dinner at the famous Munich Hofbräuhaus and returned exhausted to our great hotel on the outskirts of the city.

The next day the group undertook a guided tour of Dachau concentration camp, where pupils engaged thoroughly with the history of political opposition to the Nazis, understanding more about the early pre-war camp days for all who were considered unsuitable to the Reich.

That afternoon came the first break from Nazi history as the pupils took to the mountains and enjoyed, after a very warm 30-minute walk uphill, the sights and scenery surrounding Neuschwanstein Castle. Although a modern (19th century) building, it gave pupils insight into the medieval style of German architecture, living space and art. This was followed by the journey to Nuremberg and a welcome supper on arrival at the hotel.

The week continued to be blessed with wonderful weather, with caps and sun block a must!

The Monday gave the group the opportunity to be guided around the Nazi rally grounds, found at various points on the outskirts of Nuremberg. Our superb guide, Ann, answered numerous pupil and staff questions and reflected on the history throughout the period of 1933 to 1945, and the significance of such architecture and meetings for this period of German history.

The afternoon visit was to the courtroom where the Nuremberg trials were held after the second world war. It was fascinating to see how small the room, still used as a court of law today, is, and how the proceedings against the numerous war criminals was relayed back differently to the public of the allied countries. A fine exhibition above the court room aided pupil understanding further. Later that afternoon we set off for our final tour destination, Berlin.

Staying in the midst of the old East, with the Soviet television tower in view, the group arrived to a fine dinner and more great weather. Berlin gave pupils the opportunity to extend their knowledge beyond the Nazi period, into the Cold War period and beyond as the signs of reunification are evident all around.

A guided visit to the road to German democracy museum gave further background to the pre-Nazi period and explained the politics behind Hitler’s gaining power in 1933. This was followed by a visit to Checkpoint Charlie and a much needed lunch break

The highlight of Tuesday was the guided visit to the Topography of Terror exhibition. Standing on the site of the Gestapo headquarters the exhibition revealed the people behind the horrors and allowed pupils to gain a greater understanding of the German peoples’ perspective of the Reich they were living in 1933 to 1945.

This was followed by a teacher led tour of the Jewish memorial and the Brandenburg Gate, before heading to the famous Ku Dam and the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. The coach then took us on a Berlin by night tour, allowing pupils to see the Reichstag lit up and the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall.

On our last morning in Germany the group travelled by train the Olympic Stadium, famous home of the 1936 Olympics and propaganda triumph, following by a more sobering guided tour of Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

This was a very packed and worthwhile tour, offering insight that cannot be conveyed as easily in the classroom. Pupil behaviour was excellent at all times and I thank those who attended the tour for this.

I would also like to convey my thanks to Dr Smith, Miss Topping and Mr Grant, for accompanying the tour and giving of their free time to do so.

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