Today I saw the Berlin Wall. Yes, the wall "fell" in 1989, but there are three sections of it still standing.
One section lives across the street from the building that housed the military headquarters of the Third Reich and is accompanied by a museum/exhibit called Topography of Terror.
The second section lives near a river and houses the largest outside art gallery in the world. The wall has been painted with murals and is also known as East Side Gallery.
The third is now a memorial.
There are a few things I have been struck by today. First, I came face to face with my own biases and preconceptions about Berlin and Germany in general. Part of me did not want to come here, having studied about WWII and the Holocaust all my life. Even though I was not alive, I still hold prejudice against German people for things that happened in their past.
Second, I have been humbled by Germany's openness and honesty about it's past. At no point do they try to brush what happened under the rug. Within a few walking blocks, there is a Holocaust memorial, a museum describing the rise of the terrorist regime, a blatantly political creative response to Communism that honors protesters from that era, and numerous markings of where the Berlin Wall once stood. Throughout their education, German children are taught about the Holocaust multiple times, and are even required to visit concentration camps at least 3 times in their educational careers. They are actively trying to learn and move on from the worst parts of their past.
Third, there were so many echoes in my mind as we toured the city hearing about the rise about the rise of this charismatic and destructive leader. I heard echoes of Donald Trump, suggesting we build a wall separating the US from Mexico. I heard echoes of Britain voting to leave the EU with immigration on the table as a significant issue.
I recognize that these issues are much more complicated than I am giving them credit for here. I'm not trying to argue for any particular political stance. However, I see strong parallels between events that exist in the history of the world and events that are actively being worked out today.
My hope, regardless of political ideology, is may we be able to take pause to consider where we have been. May we all strive to find our darkest days behind us, not in front of us. May we learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us. May we step humbly and bravely forward when we witness injustice. May we remember that despite National borders, language barriers, age differences, and different perspectives, we are all human - together.
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me." - Martin Niemöller