As I have explored Berlin these past four incredible days, what has become increasingly clear to me is that this week has challenged me intellectually in ways that I was not expecting. Because of my time in Berlin experiencing the culture and history, I have been able to come to a conclusion on this thought that I had not considered before: Do not let the actions of a few, dictate your perception of something as a whole
I believe that I am a very open-minded individual, and rarely do I feel like I fall short on my understanding of some concept because I was narrow minded. However, I have come to the realization that there is more to the Soviet Union and their impact in WWII than what meets the eye. When I learned about WWII, I was told these shocking statements and facts such as Stalin killed more people than Hitler. Horrible facts like this are true but do an absolute disserve in telling the Soviet’s story which I was able discover through visiting the Soviet memorials.
The first monuments that my group, Team Bravo, visited on Day 1 were Treptower Park and the Soviet War Memorial. Both of these were Soviet Union WWII memorials. They were built by the Soviets after WWII, and Germany agreed to continue to maintain them even when the Soviets left. They were both beautiful memorials, but I especially loved Treptower Park which told the story of the Soviets liberating the Germans controlled under the Nazi regime through intricate stone carvings.
What I realized walking through Treptower Park was that the Soviets were the ones that liberated Germany… not the United States, France, or England. It was clear from the memorials we visited that the Soviet Union were not only looked upon favorably but admirably by the Germans who were trapped under the Nazi regime. I had never even considered the idea that the Soviet Union might have been a positive light in people’s eyes. I assumed this because I looked at an evil leader like Stalin who killed millions of people as who represented the rest of the Soviet Union. My sole knowledge of Stalin changed my evaluation of an entire country in WWII. What I forgot about were the courageous Soviet soldiers that put their lives on the line to defeat Germany and the Nazis. Everybody agrees that their leader was an awful individual, but let us not dismiss how brave and courageous the Soviet soldiers were.
One of the most rewarding parts of CR9 so far has been learning something new, understanding why this revelation is significant, and applying the new found understanding to other areas. I learned that the Soviets were actually viewed as heroic in the eyes of many Germans. After asking myself why I was able to see this now and not before, I realized that I let my view and understanding of Stalin define my view and understanding of Russia. This even allowed me to reconsider other beliefs I had from this new perspective.
This has been an unbelievable trip so far. I have been challenged in every capacity, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Berlin is so rich in history and culture, and I look forward to what the rest of Europe has in store for us!