A group of OBs, former staff, and friends of the School, recently enjoyed a memorable trip to Berlin, which was both thought provoking and social. Over the long weekend, the group learnt an enormous amount; the initial focus was on the growth of the Third Reich and the development of the anti-Semitic Nazi policy which eventually lead to the Holocaust. In particular, everybody was very moved by the visit to the former Gestapo Headquarters on Prinz Albrecht Strasse and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp on the outskirts of the city. On foot the party explored the area where the final days of the Battle for Berlin was fiercely fought, taking in the Reichstag (now the Parliament building) and Brandenburg Gate (built in 1795 in a Neo-Classical style) and the site of Hitler’s bunker. Fortunately not everything was completely destroyed in the War and looking down Unter Den Linden there are still a number of fine examples of 19th Century architecture. Over the weekend the party was also impressed to see the huge amount of development that had taken place since the reunification of Germany in 1990.

The second focus of the long weekend was understanding the key part the city played in the Cold War. Following the Potsdam Peace Conference of July 1945 the capital was divided into four zones of occupation, the USSR controlling the East of the city, and Britain, the USA and France the West. This power sharing arrangement regularly lead to tensions escalating in the years that followed. The Berlin blockade by the Soviets took place from June 1948 to May 1949, and throughout the 1950s the economic divide between the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) became greater and greater, with West Germany and West Berlin becoming more and more prosperous while the East deteriorated due to a lack of investment by the USSR. One such outcome of this was the vast movement of young and skilled workers from the East to West which reached its height in the early 1960s. This in turn lead to the Soviets taking the dramatic step of creating a physical barrier segregating West and East Berlin on the 13th August 1961, with “the Wall” dividing the city for the following twenty-eight years.

The tour took in the Wall at the East Side Gallery and on Bernauer Strasse, where we learnt about life in the East, the security along the Wall and a number of attempted escapes. In many ways it was difficult to comprehend the way in which families and work colleagues were separated, while the two regimes lived side by side, both watching each other! A chilling visit to the Stasi Museum and Prison also reminded us that the East German Authorities were also interested in watching their own people, regularly going to extreme lengths to gather intelligence.

Over the course of the trip the group enjoyed getting to know one another and certainly felt a common bond visiting together several exhibitions which were very moving. We were delighted that a number of OBs based in Berlin could join us at the Brauhaus Georgbraeu on the Saturday evening. A special thank you should go to our Guide, Philip Pearce, who once again achieved exactly the right balance to make the trip a huge success.

We plan to run a Battle Field Tour in 2018. Please keep an eye out for further details. Whether you have been on one before or always wanted to join such a trip you will be most welcome and certainly get a lot out of it.

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