Prior to arriving in Berlin, I had read about German history in World History classes back in the United States. I have also read novels like The Diary of Anne Frank and Summer of My German Soldier, but until now, everything about German history was a vision created in my imagination. Having the opportunity to actually visit the German Historical Museum twice has really given me the chance to reflect on my thoughts and feelings, as I now have a better understanding of the story of Germany and it’s people.
During my first visit, I did a walk through of the permanent exhibit. All this history I remember learning about in my classes was right before my eyes. The Treaty of Versailles, actual news articles from WWI and footage from the American Air Force flying over Germany after WWII. It was all so incredible for me. I felt extremely emotional when I saw the model created to show the transportation of the victims of the holocaust. It made me think about how all of this happened not very long ago. It also reminded me of the history of my own African American people in the United States.
On my second visit to the German Historical Museum, I checked out the temporary exhibits. The exhibit on homosexuality that is on display June through December 2015 intrigued me the most. The fact that I actually saw a museum exhibit dedicated to this subject matter demonstrates how far the world has come in terms of acceptance. Always hearing so many different opinions, I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn about the history and lifestyle myself. The museum prides itself on being a center of “enlightenment” on German and European history and culture.
On the wall when I first walked into the exhibit it said “The First Time.” As I read, it talked about the questions one might ask when questioning their sexuality. Questions such as: do I feel and desire differently? Am I different from others? As I continued to walk through I saw different types of artwork. There was also an array of several different LGBT pride buttons with slogans like, “Did you choose to be straight?” It made me think about how so many people don’t think about things like that. Another intriguing part of the exhibit was learning about how gays/homosexuals were also victims during the holocaust. There were stories of victims who even after surviving the camps, many were too afraid to live their life as openly homosexual, so they instead married so as not to risk living through an ordeal like that again. This exhibit reminds us that even though we have come a long way in terms of human rights, we still have battles to fight.
I learned a lot from the exhibits at the German Historical Museum. In the days since visiting, I have played the sights and sounds in my mind. It is an experience that I will never forget and certainly one that I will share with my own children one day. Seeing documents and artifacts firsthand, I feel I have a real sense of German history and events.