Walk down the hipster Kreuzberg district in Berlin, and you could be forgiven for forgetting about the city’s troubled recent history. Today, the German capital is future-facing, culturally quirky and liberal – a far cry from the rubble, barbed wire and armed guards of the 20th century.
But a new Berlin walking tour, Refugee Voices (available on our new London to Berlin and Berlin to Budapest train trips), doesn’t want you to forget. It wants you to think about the horrors Berliners faced in the 20th century; but more than that, it wants you to reflect on people facing similar struggles in today’s world. What has changed? What has stayed the same? What lessons have we learned?
Isn’t it strange, how history works? When Allied forces marched on Berlin in 1945 they left a trail of destruction in their wake, and despite Hitler’s plea to fight to the death, many Berliners desperately fled the rubble. After the war, the German capital became two cities, divided by the snarling barbed wire and bricks of the Berlin Wall. East Germans who were desperate to rejoin their families or find their fortune were often killed or arrested in their attempts to escape to the west.
But 80 years later, when similarly displaced refugees escaped the horrors of the Syrian civil war, one city gave them a warmer welcome than any other European capital. Today, Berlin is a place to flee to, not flee from – and this becomes apparent with this unique Berlin walking tour.
It’s an interesting parallel that shows that no place is safe from conflict, but also that no place is beyond rebirth and reconstruction, as long as we can learn from the past. Through drawing fascinating parallels between the struggles Berliners faced in the 20th century and what Syrian refugees face in the 21st, the Refugee Voices tour wants to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. And looking at how some media outlets portrayed the fleeing refugees as ‘vermin’, and noticing the troubling rise of Far Right parties across Europe, it’s a lesson that’s as vital as ever.
Want to fit out more about the Berlin walking tour, Refugee Voices? Check out our new London to Berlin Train Trip for more info and other unforgettable experiences.