The week involved visits to a diverse range of locations with specialists on German culture, politics and History. After 12 years of teaching about this country I felt like a student once more, able to learn more in one week than I have learnt in 12 years of teaching Weimar, Nazi and Cold War Germany. It was an incredible experience and I cannot wait now to plan a a school trip to this fabulous city.
The Teacher Study Tour was funded by the German Foreign Office and organised and run through the European Academy Berlin. Our Tour Leader Sarah was superb and together with another colleague from the Academy, Desiree, they created a fantastic itinerary that meant our week was most memorable.
The itinerary was jam packed full of meetings and visits that enabled the 16 participating British History teachers to really connect with the diverse and complex history of this diverse nation, while also engaging us with current issues relating to current cultural, social and political developments taking place in Germany as we speak. It was an opportunity to enrich my teaching of this important aspect of History that I have no doubt will benefit my students.
Some highlights of the trip are shown below:
VISIT TO THE GERMAN HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Stefan Bresky, Head of the Department of Education, introduced us to the German Historical Museum, which is held in the old Prussian Arsenal building. The morning spent here was insightful in showing how they have put together the museum displays and most importantly, what story they are trying to tell for the visitors, particulalrly for German students who visit here as part of their History work in German Schools. In fact, that morning we had also visited the temporary exhibition ‘The Luther Effect – Protestantism 500 years in the world’ at the Martin Gropius Bau Museum. Our tour guide, Tobias Wissinger was truly engaging with his superb English skills in allowing us the insight into the impact of Luther and the Reformation.
We spent the afternoon at the German Historical Museum with Franziska Gottschling and David Meeres, taking part in their Education workshop. Time was spent interpreting the various display pieces with the focus on The German Empire 1871-1918.
VISIT TO THE STASI ARCHIVE
Talk with BETTINA ALTENDORF
The Stasi Archive allowed a greater perspective of life for East Germans living in the GDR until the fall of the wall. Bettina, our guide, was excellent in explaining the extent of monitoring that took place in East Germany. We were taken to various locations within this archive. The photo below shows the classified documents the Stasi Police were shredding when the wall came down.
VISIT TO THE FEDERAL FOREIGN OFFICE
DR. HOLGER BERWINKEL
We were spoilt with lunch at the ‘International Club’ located on the top floor of the Federal Foreign Office where German diplomat Dirk Loelke entertained us for lunch.
A unique experience was using the lift located in the Foreign Office, as you see in the video below there are no doors on it, also, it is constantly moving.
POLITICAL ARCHIVE OF THE FEDERAL FOREIGN OFFICE
After, we were guided to the basement to visit the Federal Archives with a tour given by Holger Berwinkel. He showed us various items of interest including one of the EU Treaties, as well as a document from a German report in 1917 detailing the safe passage of Lenin from Geneva to Russia.
SCHOOL VISIT TO PAULSEN
We divided into 2 groups and each visited a different school. We spent the morning observing a bi-lingual lesson (German and English) as well as visiting the various departments. We had an opportunity to meet and discuss the teaching of History with German colleagues.
VISIT TO ALEXANDER HAUS E.V. PROJECT
Animated History for a better understanding of Jewish-German History
Alexander Haus, Am Park 2, Groß Glienicke, 14476 Potsdam
This was one of our final visits, and perhaps the most memorable. We arrived in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin to a dilapidated house. The story behind this building, which was once a home to various generations of family is intriguing and very moving. British Historian John Owen, together with teachers from the Tiergarten School in Berlin, guided us around the area. Behind the house is a lake, which became the dividing line between East and West Germany. The Berlin wall quite literally was built across the back garden of the house, placing the home of the German family living there on the Eastern side, unable to visit the lake. It is detailed in this book:
Thank you to Sarah Sporys, our guide for the week, she did a fantastic job of keeping us all in check. You can imagine the chaos of 16 British History teachers together for as week!
I highly recommend any History teacher who has the opportunity to participate in this tour to do so. For those History teachers who are interested, here is a link to the itinerary.
The website is here: http://www.uk.diplo.de/
If you are interested in applying, it is fully funded (accommodation, flights and meals) with a requirement to complete an application form with the support of your head teacher.
Keep an eye out for when application open for next year, it is an intense week of learning that will change your perception of German history.