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Modern Civ Day Vier: Flashback to Life Under the Stasi

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Guten Tag! Day Vier: The sun was out, and we were in full force for a day of Cold War East German history. In the morning, we headed out to the Berlin Wall Memorial complex at Bernauer Strasse, one of the places where the wall ran directly in front of buildings, causing many people during 1961 to jump out of their windows to the West. From the no man’s land recreation, to the cemetery that had to be moved because of the wall construction, to the guard towers, students were able to understand how the wall was more than a wall; it evolved into a highly technical and well-designed structure to keep the East Berliners from escaping into the West.  

After lunch at a typical Turkish street food restaurant, students stepped back into the past with our visit to the Stasi Museum, located right in the old Stasi archive. Walking down Karl-Marx Allee, where the Stasi complex was located, we were transported to the past; the buildings both around the complex and in it had not changed at all since the 1950s. We spent nearly 2 hours with one of our best guides yet of the trip, a Danish film documentary producer and researcher on the Stasi and its leadership. From the detailed stories of the people (especially teens) living under the Stasi, to their techniques and the idea of a culture that spies on its own people and the implications of that today, our guide delivered the best view yet of life during the Cold War in the DDR. 1025905_10201396938312358_1771356504_oHe in fact created a specialized tour just for teenagers and took pains to make sure that we knew how a typical DDR teenager might have felt the Stasi presence in their lives. Incredibly intense and stark stories…

From there, we proceeded to Berlin’s most visible structure: the TV tower located in Alexander Platz. Up up we went 360 meters, and students decided to have dinner at the restaurant that circled high above the city. This offered the most amazing views yet of the trip! Let’s hope our last day in Berlin will provide us with similarly great weather and sights! -Jeanne Scheppach

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