School debates and museums 

I took a Political Science class this past semester, and during the last week of classes, we conducted debates. My group decided to debate the Death Penalty, and our job was to show that the death penalty was cruel and unusual. The basis of our argument was that no person, group of people, or even government should be able to arbitrarily define the value of a human life. Why should we, as humans, be able to determine when another human has lost his or her humanity?

As I was walking through the Topography of Terror in Berlin, I thought back to this debate. The Topography of Terror is now a museum where the centers of the Nazi headquarters were located in the 1930s and 1940s. This museum covers the history of the Institutions of Terror that were located in Berlin, and it truthfully covers the effects of their rule, especially the horrible treatment that ensued. Team Charlie visited this museum on our second day in Berlin, and I was taken aback as I read in more detail about the horrors of Nazi Germany and the mistreatment of many groups of people.

I stumbled upon a quote, short and simple, that defined the basis of the Nazi party in regards to their opinions on humanity during the 1930s-40s. “All men are not equal.” This was the principle that Nazi leadership used to justify the exclusion and persecution of people, especially Jews, homosexuals, and individuals with disabilities. I realize this quote was not abstract or different from what I had learned in almost every history class I have taken, but that day, this quote especially stuck out to me.

These groups of people were not of the desired population, and the Germans called their desired group of people the “Volk” population. The groups not included in the Volk population (i.e. The Jews, homosexuals, and individuals with disabilities) were seen as less-than, subhuman, and wastes of space. As I continued to read, I became increasingly angry, because the Nazis had absolutely no reason to consider certain groups as “more human” than others. The Nazis arbitrarily assigned humanity (and eventually death) to some people, which was despicable and inhumane. Throughout the rest of the day, all I could think about was one question: Why should people, especially the government, have the right to take arbitrarily determine what makes a human a human? Personally, I believe that we cannot decide whether or not a human is a human. There is a huge problem with having a flawed system, a flawed state, and a flawed government inconsistently taking away a human’s dignity fundamentally. That’s exactly what the Nazis did. And it was wrong.

Having the opportunity to begin to understand more deeply how the Institutions of Terror that controlled Germany was an experience I appreciate now and will continue to appreciate in the future. It showed me even further how no one deserves to have his or her humanity taken away.

As we are on the train from Berlin to Munich, I’m sad to be leaving Berlin, but I’m so excited to see what other connections I will continue to make throughout the rest of this trip. CR9 is already an incredible experience, and I’m pumped for what’s to come.