May 16, 2012 is the day for history geeks in the ASC in Germany program to ramble and to be tested in and about history. We dealt with different historical periods of the German State. In the morning, we visited the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which is neatly located in a vibrant part of East Berlin. Every Scottie agreed that the tour guide spoke excellent English, had a good sense of humor, and was very spontaneous. On top of everything he was a great art historian who could tell a story from a painting; he could connect history with what is happening to the museum collections. We can never find any anecdote about the descendants of Jewish victims who are now re-claiming their rights to their parents’ art collections in any history books. It reminds me of the movie The History Boys (2006), in which the teacher says that the current history is the forgotten history, or people only want to remember the distant past, not what has just happened.
Since the establishment of the German State in 1871, Germany has gone through many turbulence, and turning points in such a short amount of time. I realize that German history somehow synchronized with film history, which started in 1895. If somebody in Germany could create a German history museum through the lens of movies, it would be awesome. There exist a film museum and a history museum in Berlin, but why don’t we make a history through films museum?
The 90-minute museum tour really brought back to me what I learned during this school year at Agnes Scott. The Nuremburg Law defined by a biological chart. This graphical demonstration helped me make sense the definition of Jewishness that Claudia Koonz tries to clarify in the Nazi Conscience. I saw the beetle, the beautiful car model that I am in love with, which was the Volkswagen car that Hitler promised every Volk to be able to own one in the 30s , but it never came true until the end of WW II.
The Stasi prison was a very emotional and depressing place for me. I refused to take any picture of the place because it was very depressing. However, I acknowledged that I learned more about myself, my background, and my interpretation of an authoritarian regime than the actual place itself. It is traveling and interacting with the place, and people that really provokes my inner thought about my identity. Everything looked so familiar as if I had been into a place like the interrogation room there before. The furniture looked familiar, the torture tactics sounded familiar. On top of all, I realized the patterns of wall paper, of the floor. They look like what my father used for his tiny apartment in Hanoi 5 years ago. That realization and connection horrified me, and I was not able to take it.
In the evening, I had a wonderful chance to explore the Hackescher Market with a Vietnamese whom I interviewed for an oral history project. She was willing to share with me her childhood experience, her schooling, and her love to travel, to be alive for herself, not for her parents, her version of Berlin, and her version of Vietnam. It was not the first time that I have come to a conclusion that traveling with a local always fascinated me more than with a group of enthusiasts who come for tourist attractions. During this trip, I love the balance that I am able to manage: to both meet and converse with local Berliners and to explore the tourist parts with other world travellers.
Tomorrow, the group will travel to Dessau and visit the Bauhaus School of Architecture. It is actually the subject that Alex and I presented in class almost two months ago, but I do not remember much. The trip will refresh our knowledge, and helps us acquire some more information and will inspire us for some future projects. Then I will attend a gathering with the Vietnamese Community of Berlin and Brandenburg for the Ascension Holiday in the evening. Hopefully, there will be more thought-provoking discussions for me. It is my responsibility to unearth the truth, to record multiple side stories of Vietnamese immigrants, and to connect Vietnamese people around the globe. Hence, I take this project pretty seriously. I also realized that I love history, and I really want to get better and more in depth with it.