Wednesday, September 30, 2015

House of the Wannsee Conference

My host family in Berlin lived in Wannsee, which I quickly found out was the "luxurious" part of Berlin, and the place where you go for a sail, or the beach. (The beach was actually one stop away, but it was the same body of water.) I found myself running around the lake a few times, walking around it, and generally just appreciating the fact that I was so close to water, something out of the ordinary for someone from the desert. 

On the other side of the lake was the House of the Wannsee Conference. I'd read about it, and it was on the other side of the lake from my house, so I went. Took a bus ride (one of my first, and I did it very successfully, thank you) and took a look at history (almost literally) right on my doorstep. 

The Wannsee Conference took place in 1942, and was a meeting place for many of the leaders within the Nazi party, in order to find a "final solution" to the "Jewish problem." It is the most beautiful house, on the most beautiful grounds and on a incredible lake, where a terrible decision was made. It's since been turned into a museum, and many of the rooms show picture of what it looked like when they were making the decision, and knowing you're standing in the exact room that a decision like that was made is a different feeling than you can find anywhere else. 

"In this house in January 1942, the infamous Wannsee Conference took place. Dedicated to the memory of those fellow Jews who were killed by the tyranny of the Nazis."

The gardens were beautiful, as I'm sure they were in 1942. It was and is an idyllic place, and despite the fact that the leaders might have felt they needed a vacation, it just seems even crueler that such a decision could have been made at such a beautiful place.

The view of the back of the house and the lake.

The museum was set up impeccably. Though much of the history you'll find in Berlin is about the World War II and the Holocaust and the effects they've had on Germany in the last 70 years, it was good to read it again, getting a different point of view and seeing it in a different context - from those who were making the decisions.

It outlined a lot of the top people within the Nazi regime, which was interesting. These were people who had lives and then made some terrible decisions. One of the most interesting parts was a section dedicated to the children of these people. Many of them shared the same last names, as it was their fathers who were high-ranking members of the Nazi party, not their mothers. Within Germany, many of the children had recognizable last names, and even being born in the 1970s, were discriminated and judged because of what their parents had done.

I was standing in the same room; the information panels hung on the right side of the room, where the chairs are lined up in this photo.

The flower garden on the east side of the home.

The view of the lake from the back of the house. The tan part of the shore is Berlin's largest (and only, really) beach, Nikolassee.

The property had trails leading through the gardens and around the house. I thought that tree placement was particularly perfect.

A fascinating topic to learn about, but made even more interesting being in the place where the decisions were made and the people were actually making history.

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