During the Advent Half Term, the Boys’ Football Tour to Berlin was accompanied by a group of historians looking for cultural and intellectual enrichment right at the heart of Germany. While the boys were busy training, we made our way round Berlin from the east to the west. We visited various historical sights, landmarks, and museums closed to the West during the Cold War.
Our first stop was the Brandenburg Gate; still in awe of its size and majesty, we then visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The Memorial presented a striking contrast to its built up surroundings right in the centre of the city, and we paused to remember and reflect on the lives lost. After this, we stopped off at the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, followed by the Bebelplatz, at Humboldt Universitat, where the Burning of the Books took place in 1933. The next day, while the footballers were training hard, the historians visited Museum Island, looking round the German Historical Museum, which presented the full development of German society from Charlemagne to the present day. Later, we visited the Alte Nationalgalerie to admire the impressionist exhibition.
As the week progressed, our tour round one of the last remaining civilian air raid shelters in Berlin was distinctly unsettling, seeing the perspective of the other side in a war that we are always taught epitomises good and evil. We also saw the pre-war Nazi plans for Berlin, what they wanted to name “Germania”, in an exhibition on Albert Speer’s architecture, inspired by the vastness and distinctiveness of the buildings of antiquity.
Our next stop: The Cold War. As we walked the 1316m remaining section of the Berlin Wall, seeing the messages of peace, hope and love painted on such an infamous monument was particularly moving. In the evening, the historians reunited with the footballers to visit the Reichstag - the view over Berlin at night was spectacular.
Subsequent to a visit to the Topography of Terror (the former headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office), we spent our last day with the footballers visiting the Olympiastadion. The tour was the perfect mix of football and history; the stadium was built for the Olympic Games in 1936, the last before the War, and designed by Speer, it was probably one of the most unnerving buildings we had seen on our trip. The image of it during the 1936 games, draped in Swastikas was not far from our minds. Overall, the trip was packed full of history, giving us a more comprehensive view of the Second World War and seeing how the German people lived and got through the war, just as the British did.
Olivia L (Upper Sixth)