On our free day, Sean and I went to Tempelhof Airport, which was constructed by the Nazis in the 1930s, and was one of the world’s busiest airports before the start of World War II. The airport and the land it was built on has been at the center of German history for hundreds of years. The land initially belonged to the Knights Templar in the middle ages. It was then used as a parade field for Prussian forces and then unified German forces until World War I. It was also used as a parade ground for massive Nazi demonstrations. The airport was used for commercial travel before the war, but closed down after Germany banned commercial flights during the war. The Nazis used the airport terminal as a huge factory to build and repair airplanes damaged in fighting, and then flew the repaired planes back to return to fighting. After the War, the airport was in West Berlin, and became the terminus of the Berlin Airlift in 1948-49. The Airlift was an operation that was so hugely symbolic and really highlighted the competing economic and ideological trajectories of post-war Europe. After Stalin cut off land route from West Germany to West Berlin, the people of Berlin had no other supply of outside food and fuel, and relied on the Allied forces to keep the supply corridors open. The Allies flew over 200,000 flights in just one year, landing a plane every 30 seconds at Tempelhof Field. The sheer scale of the operation really showed the Allies’ commitment to the people of Berlin, and against the oppressive regime of the Soviets, and the stark differences in ideology of the two sides.
We also visited the DDR Museum, which was an interactive museum covering the history and society of the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, during the Cold War years. It was an interactive museum, which was interesting because I got to see a lot of the propaganda and advertising the GDR utilized. They had mock classrooms, houses, and examples of state-sponsored music. When the GDR was in charge, they outlawed popular music like rock and roll because it was said to be suggestive and provocative. Along with this, the government actually made up dances that students had to learn and perform. Because of this extreme oppression, citizens became very creative in their methods of protest. People wanted Western music and culture, and oftentimes secretly played banned music or held dances that were not state sponsored. The museum also had examples of “underground” publications and newsletters that citizens produced secretly, with news other than what the GDR supplied. I was shocked by the number of spies that were secretly working for the government during the cold war era. I enjoyed actually seeing examples and artifacts from this era, and seeing how far reaching the government of the GDR really was.