GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Emilie Mulkey

The Reichstag Building and the German Foreign Ministry

The day began with a trip to the Reichstag building, the home of the Bundestag: the German Parliament. The Reichstag building has a rich history dating back to the late nineteenth century. It has been the home of the German Parliament under three different forms of government: the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, and now under the modern German government. In 1933, the building was badly damaged by fire, which the Nazi government used as an opportunity to suspend regular meetings of the Reichstag Parliament. The building fell into disuse during the Cold War and was badly damaged in World War II by Soviet forces. However, after German reunification in the 1990s, the parliament relocated from Bonn to Berlin, and the building was restored to become the home of the Bundestag. When we visited, the parliament was not in session, but we were still able to take a trip to the top of the building to enjoy the panoramic views of Berlin.

The glass dome at the top of the Reichstag building was added when the building was restored in the 1990s. While the dome was closed for cleaning when we visited, we were still able to see the outside of the dome. The glass dome offers 360 degree view of the city, along with a history of the building. Inside the dome, there is a direct view into the meeting chamber of the Bundestag. This is intended to represent transparency to the public, and remind the parliament that the public is always watching. Anyone can visit the dome and the top of the building, even if the parliament is in session.

The second trip of the day was to the German Foreign Ministry. However, during our break between our visit to the Reichstag and the Foreign Ministry, Dr. Weber guided us to a memorial to those who had lost their lives trying to escape East Berlin during the Cold War. Located near the Brandenburg Gate, this memorial is made up of white crosses with the names of those killed and the dates they died. This memorial reminded us all of what length people were willing to go to in order to escape the Communist regime in Eastern Berlin.

We arrived at the German Foreign Ministry, the building has gardens all through out it, including one on the roof of the building. We were briefed by a young German diplomat who explained German foreign policy in a variety of areas during an hour long Q&A. We were able to discuss many different issues, including the strained relationship between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump, the Nordstrom Two Pipeline, and German military objectives such as the 2% NATO spending target.

These two visits gave us a brief glimpse into the workings of the German political system and the changing transatlantic relationship. Not only that, they also provided us an understanding of the German place in the world, including the relationship between Germany and the EU, Germany and the Middle East, and Germany in Africa. When discussing German roles in different arenas, we were able to better understand how the country takes an active roles in some areas, but remains neutral in others. For example, when discussing peace in the Middle East, Germany takes a very passive position due to complicated relations with Israel, but supplies Israel with non-nuclear submarines. However, when dealing with the European Union, Germany is more likely to push Brussels to achieve their specific policy objectives.

After visiting both the French and German foreign ministries, it is clear why these two nations are known as the “Twin Engines” of the European Union. The two most important founding members of the EU must work together on a variety of complex issues to help the EU be as efficient as possible. Because these two nations do differ on a variety of issues, the relationship between them is complex and ever-changing. As the diplomat mentioned, the relationship between Germany and France has been reinvigorated by the election of Emmanuel Macron due to Macron’s pro-EU stance. The diplomat even pointed to Macron’s walking out to “Ode to Joy” as an omen for future EU cooperation between the two pro-EU nations. After visiting Brussels, Paris, and Berlin, it is clear that these three cities are vital to the every day and long term functions of the EU, and they are at the heart of global and European issues.

The Lorraine American Cemetery and Dornot-Corny Battlefield

June 6

The day began with a short trip to the site of the Dornot-Corny battle. However, before we even arrived, we drove through Jouy-aux-Arches.This is a small village in the country-side of Lorraine that has sixteen surviving arches of a Roman aqueduct, the same Roman aqueduct that supplied running water to Metz, France over 1700 years ago. This was a small excursion that allowed us to all stretch our legs for a moment and enjoy the picturesque views before we headed to Dornot-Corny battle site.

When we arrived, we quickly headed down a small path. The path followed the Moselle river, and many people were running or walking their dogs that morning. After a few hundred yards, a sign introducted the Dornot-Corny historical walk. This walk commemorates the United States’s attempt to cross the Moselle river. The US divisions lost 945 men in sixty hours at Dornot-Corny. It is made up of signs that explain the events leading up to 8 September 1944 and their tactical significance. The signs feature first hand accounts from veterans of the battle. These attempt to give you an idea of the horrible conditions the men endured and how poorly the battle was planned. The last sign on the walk features Jack Kirby’s account of the battle. Jack Kirby is the creator of Captain America and several other Marvel and DC characters. He landed at Normandy on D-Day, 73 years before we visited this site, and was present at this battle. He explains how he clung to a poorly constructed boat to cross the river as German’s fired on the troops from the other bank. This site was a powerful reminder of not just the successes of World War II, but also the failures that claimed so many lives.

Since it was D-Day, the entire day was centered around commemorating those who lost their lives in World War II and the veterans who fought against fascist regimes. After Dornot, we headed to the Lorraine American Cemetery at Saint Avold, which is the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe. The cemetery is the final resting place of 10,489 American soldiers who died during the fall of 1944 during the allied campaign against the Germans in Northern France, and the site of the memorial to those who lost their lives in WWII.

Our guide, who met us outside of the memorial, quickly identified three graves that stood out to her. The first grave we visitied was the grave of Rueben Rivers, a medal of honor

recipient who died on November 19, 1944. He died after he was wounded and refused to be evacuated so that he could stay and fight. His sacrifice saved hundreds of American soldier’s lives, however, he was not rewarded for this bravery until the 1990s. He was an African American soldier, which was the reason for the delay. At the Lorraine American Cemetery, soldiers are not segregated, despite the segregation of the US Army at that time. The guide reminded us that, at that time, no matter how these soldiers defined themselves-white or black, young or old, Christian or Jewish-they were all equal in death.

The next grave was a grave of an unknown soldier, where the guide explained that not onlydid these men sacrifice their lives, they also sacrificed their identities. At Saint Avold, 151 unknown soldiers are buried, and the memorial wall has the names of 444 missing soldiers. After our visit to the three graves, we all had a chance to walk along the memorial wall and see the names of those whose bodies couldn’t be identified, even after all this time.

The last grave was a soldier who died on December 11, 1944. What was special about him was that the cemetery had his last letter that he wrote to his father. This letter explains how all the soldiers miss home, and what they miss about it. It was incredibly moving as he expresses his desire to live for the simple things in live. He expresses his desire to grow up and grow old, to see his children and grandchildren, and to hug his mother. He explains these are desires all the soldiers have, and how he just wants to live. The letter was written on November 20, 1944. His father didn’t receive it before he received news that his son was dead.

After this, we had free time which I used to visit the memorial. The memorial has a martyred Roman soldier carved over the entrance, and when you enter, there are giant statues of military heroes all looking up at a central figure surrounded by stars. On one wall, a description of the military campaigns is carved into the wall, and on the other, there is a map of the Allied advances following the landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Left to Right: King David, Emperor Constantine, King Arthur, George Washington. 

These two visits were incredibly moving and reminded us all of the sacrifices that were made for freedom. Being at these places on D-Day though, helped us to remember how costly that sacrifices was. While it was sad, these visits helped us grasp the significance of WWII and the campaigns around the Moselle.

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