After living in Berlin for two months I have discovered that there is simply too much history, food, art, architecture, and culture in this city to cover it all in one article. So instead, I want to focus on two specific locations that I visited which truly moved me.
Historical landmarks are abundant in Berlin. From significant World War 2 landmarks to the remaining echoes of the Cold War, when Berlin was divided in two by the Berlin Wall, it's almost impossible to travel around the city without seeing something historically significant.
But I wasn't looking for history when I visited the Friedhof Wilsnacker Graveyard. In fact, I was just taking a small walk near my hotel when I came upon what I thought was a small park. it was only when I entered through the iron gates that I realized it was a small cemetery.
As I looked at the headstones, I discovered that most of the people buried here had several things in common. They were all young men, aged between 18 and 30 years old when they died, and they all died around the same time in 1945.
Then it hit me. "This is a graveyard for Nazi soldiers"! I quickly pulled out my phone to do some research on the graveyard and discovered the truth behind the young men buried there.
They weren't, in fact, Nazis, but were men of faith who had led the underground German resistance against the Nazi movement. I learned that this graveyard was once the yard of a small prison which the Gestapo had used to hold political prisoners.
I learned that, towards the end of the war when bombs were raining down on the city and the German fight for world domination was all but lost, the SS had led these men outside to the yard where they were shot dead. It was here, in this very yard where they were killed, that the graveyard now rests.
The second historical site that I just happened upon was a train platform. I was walking to the Grunewald Forest, which is a large forest located just outside the western side of Berlin. I wasn't looking for anything in particular. I just wanted to spend some time with nature.
As I walked along a small dirt path leading to the forest, I encountered an abandoned railway platform. The tracks were falling apart and rusted, and there were trees growing all along and through the rails. Out of curiosity, I decided to get a closer look.
I was hit hard by what I saw as I drew closer. Along the tracks, on the platform were small plaques with dates, numbers, and the words "Juden" and "Berlin-Auschwitz." It was then that I realized where I was.
This was the original platform where over 50,000 Jews were boarded onto cattle cars and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Each plaque gave the date and the number of Jews that were shipped to the camps on that specific day.
I stood there, completely alone, walking the platform and looking at the numbers of Jews who were shipped each day. I tried to imagine what it must have been like, with guards yelling and dogs barking. The unbearable fear and confusion that these poor people must have felt brought tears to my eyes.
Berlin is an amazing city, and should not only be remembered for its difficult past. I will most definitely write about more pleasant experiences I have had while living here, in the future. But these two landmarks really touched me.
As difficult as the world is today, it was important for me to see these places. It reminded me that people throughout time have experienced far greater hardships than myself and with far greater grace and courage. I will keep their stories in my heart as I carry on.
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