A Return to Berlin (Part 3)

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It has been a great week so far! On Sunday, we began the trip with a walking tour of the area immediately surrounding the hotel in historic East Berlin. We ventured over toward the west to the Brandenburg Gate by walking down the impressive boulevard Unter den Linden.

On Monday, the walking continued. We passed through a square with my favorite “monument” on our way to the German Historical Museum for a quick survey of 2000 years of German history. The square is Bebelplatz and this is where on May 10, 1933, a massive book burning by National Socialist students took place. Works from great authors such as Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Heinrich Heine, and Karl Marx were taken from the library of the Humboldt University and burned. Altogether some 20,000 books were burned. The memorial is an underground library with empty shelves which one can view from above through a thick plate of glass.

Over lunch, we met with the head of the German Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Eberhard Sandschneider, for a discussion of Germany’s place in the world. After lunch we headed to the German Foreign Office for briefings with the Coordinator for German-American Affairs and the Coordinator for Dialogue among Civilizations. In the first session in the Foreign Office, participants learned about the strong ties between Germany and the United States – and specifically the new U.S.-EU free trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In the second meeting, we discussed Germany’s relations with the Muslim world as well as immigration and integration in Germany.

On Tuesday, we started the day with a briefing at the Atlantik-Brücke – a non-profit founded in the 1950s to promote deeper ties between Germany and the United States. We met with two young “transatlanticists” who personify the next generation of young leaders. We ended the day with a special briefing about German energy policy with the head of ecologic.

from museum island

The group spent most of the day on the famous Museum Island looking at artifacts from around the world – including the Pergamon Alter and the Gates of Babylon.

On Wednesday, the group learned about the Third Reich and the Cold War. We had the opportunity to explore Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terror. In addition, we saw Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum – which traces the history of Jews in Germany and Europe – as well as Peter Eisenman’s Holocaust Memorial.

Over lunch, the group met with Europe-expert Ulrike Guerot for a discussion of German and European politics, the euro crisis, and Franco-German relations. In the afternoon, we met with foreign policy expert and politician Hans-Ulrich Klose who also gave us a tour of the Reichstag building.

by Dr. Steven E. Sokol, President and CEO, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh

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