October 07, 2010

Student Blog by Katharine Hormann: Weimar

The main event today, besides the amazing bratwurst, was the Goethe museum. Goethe is a huge part of German history. Besides being a major poet who wrote “Faust” he is also responsible for bringing many people to Weimar. In his house, which is now a museum, we wandered the corridors each clutching an ipod in our hands, listening to a recording of a British man tell us the history of the house we were slowly touring. The most amazing thing out of the entire museum, in my humble opinion, was Goethe’s library. Thousands and thousands of books! I was amazed that there still were many of the books there and not fake “stand ins” so to say. I wished that I could be allowed in there, Goethe’s library. I would have loved to finger through his books and look at the notes he may have left in the margins of his own copy of the countless works that he had collected. That would be amazing.

Katharine with the bust of J.S. Bach in Weimar 
After the museum we toured downtown Weimar. So many amazing and famous historical figures have been to Weimar! No wonder that it is called the “Athens” of Germany. Hans Christian Anderson was in Weimar for a time. Maybe in his visit he thought up some ideas for the Little Mermaid or the Little Matchbox Girl. Bach was in Weimar for a few years as well. To the left is a picture of me with a bust of Bach himself. I wonder what songs he composed while he was there. It felt amazing to be somewhere where he himself once stood, long ago. We continued walking and were shown the Liszt Music School.
Weimar was also a major place during the Third Reich and had it’s own Parade grounds where Nazi Soldiers once marched by saluting Hitler while he stood in front of the Zum Schwarzen Bären. The Zum Schwarzen Bären or “Black Bear Inn” in English, is the oldest pub and restaurant in Weimar, it was established in 1540. No doubt that Bach himself ate there with friends. 

The following day, we went to an amazing organ concert at the Weimarer Orgelsommer 2010 at the Stadkirche St. Peter and Paul. Sitting next to Dr. Anderson and Orr, we the three of us took in the magnificent organ music. Christine Lux gave everyone a perfect display of her talent as she played the keys up and down as if she were simply breathing. Sitting there, it was so peaceful as I was taking it all in. God was surely there listening with us all.
It was earlier today that we attended the same church for their 10 o’clock service.  Us students could not understand what was happening seeing as it was a German church and the service was in their native tongue. It probably seemed rather comical the way we all played telephone when Kelley or Herr Orr would pass along translations of what was being said. The message was that of church music and its importance. It was lovely because every so often the organist would play a piece and she was occasionally accompanied by the church choir. The congregation sang a canon  as we tried helplessly to sing in German. The service was closed with an Organ and orchestra piece by Bach. It was beautiful. When the service was over we had some free time and headed back to the Jegendherberge (youth hostel) for some lunch. 
Buchenwald. It was the largest concentration camp ever built. More human beings were brought through this camp than any other camp on the continent. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in Buchenwald for 2 months before he was hanged at Flossenburg. We walked around the huge lot of land that was empty in structure, but not in spirit. I stood there with the breeze whizzing past my face and shut my eyes. I tried to imagine how life, or rather death was here during this establishments prime. I could feel the hurt of history’s past. The thousands of innocent and falsely accused souls. The families that were split forever, only to be joined again in Heaven. After spending a few hours at the camp we headed out to make one final stop at the Buchenwald Memorial. Having passed it on the way into the camp, I personally didn’t think that it was going to be as massive as it truly was. Going down a series of endless steps, it consisted of a large clock tower (which is what most people see driving in to the camp), a memorial statue, flagpoles and torch basins for each country that was imprisoned in Buchenwald, a series of plaques depicting the cruelty and humanity that occurred, and three gaping holes in the earth. Herr Orr, Doctor Anderson and I discussed what the significance of the holes could be. We came to the conclusion that it was a kind of metaphor. The world will never be the same because of what happened. There are holes in the earth and holes in the hearts of many. It has left its mark on history. Much more than three ditches. We left Buchenwald with much more appreciation and knowledge than we had had earlier that very same day. Mystery that… Later that night at the Jugendherberge we had the amazing privilege of listening to the manager of the youth hostel, Frau Fredrick, tell us about the tearing down Berlin Wall and her personal experiences living in East Germany before the wall fell.

We all sat around in the mess hall, warm cups of tea in our cold hands, listening to her speak in German. Kelley would then translate her words spoken into English so that we could follow. She lived under communism for most of her life and was taught that the Russians were the ones who freed everyone from the concentration camps. She was taught that America was the enemy and that they couldn’t be trusted. No one was even allowed to watch American news or shows on TV. You were able to get a car… But you had to get in the 15 year waiting list for one. Mystery that… 
Frau Fredrick didn’t ever complain to us about living under communism, no she did the opposite. She said that living under communism felt safe. Everyone had jobs, there wasn’t a lot of money, but everyone got by. There was a sense of security. One sad thing that she did tell us about was that her brother was on the other side of the wall. She never really knew him because he was so young and they were separated for so long. What was so sad about it was that it didn’t seem like she ever grew close to him. They missed a very important childhood together and it threw them off forever. She didn’t say all of this, but she spoke about him in a tone that was so distant that it was obvious. 
At first she didn’t believe it, when she heard that they were tearing the Berlin Wall down. She couldn’t take it seriously the first time, but then she kept hearing it on the radio and knew it was really happening. When the radio announced that the borders were open she ran to the train station and caught one of the first trains into west Germany. She had always wanted to see it and was amazed by all of the differences. People would go to West Germany to buy groceries and then come back to East Germany were they lived. There was so much more to offer in West Germany and everything was offered at an affordable price. 
She closed with a thought that was very scary. She said that she knew she was living under communism, a security state, but that things today didn't seem much different. How do we know we aren't being watched when there are traffic cameras on every traffic light, there are cameras in most public places, calls are traced, if you check out certain books at the library you will be tracked. America is being watched. Do we really have the freedom that we think we do?

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