Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there! Have you been waiting long? No matter, let’s dive headfirst into day twelve of our trip, shall we?

I woke up this morning to the raised voices of the group in the room above us. This seems to be a daily ritual for them, as they were laughing and talking loudly the morning before, and the morning before THAT. My cot was harder than usual, and there was a chill in the air. As my alarm rings through my half-asleep ears, I look at the time.

“Hmmmm… Six o’clock… Don’t have to be up until ten-thirty.” Eyes close.

I shoot awake. The clock reads nine-forty five. Well, that doesn’t give me much time for breakfast. As I jump into the shower, I look fondly back at the first week of our time here in Europe. Jet-lagged and in the early grips of a cold out to kill me, my internal clock had me in bed by about eight, and up in the morning around three. While yes, this did mean that I missed out on any and all fun the group decided to engage in during the evening, I knew for a fact I needn’t be afraid of accidentally sleeping in.

Now here I am, adjusted to the time difference from home, falling back into the accidental sleeping in routine.

I don’t even bother trying to eat.

We all gather in the same small room in which we met Mr. Helmut Stern (See ‘We’ll Remember, Anyway…) two days prior. Instead of the sharp old violinist, we are greeted with a younger man. A historian, he calls himself. Thomas Werneke is a history teacher from Potsdam, and he comes prepared with an approximately hour and a half lesson focused on the period of time from the end of WWII up until our time. He largely speaks on the effects that both the Allied powers and the ex-Nazis had on the political climates that were shaping and shifting in the divided Germany. It is interesting to hear that many of the ex-Nazis went on to have positions of political power and influence in the new Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

Being a sucker for History lessons, especially when they are taught by a GOOD history teacher, I thoroughly enjoy the hour and a half. At the end of his lesson, I ask about the state of Anti-Semitism in today’s Germany, and he morosely tells us that there is evidence from surveys conducted to the people of Germany, that approximately a quarter of the population shows a leaning toward Anti-Semitic thinking, whether it is through reinforced stereotyping, or extremist idealism.

He says that while it is almost impossible to know nowadays whether someone is leaning on the Anti-Semitic side due to the anti-racism laws in Germany, he is slightly afraid for the future.

After his lesson is over, we all meet for lunch. I like lunch.

But I don’t think I much like this lunch. Some sort of pasta. With Chef Boyardee sauce. It does the job of filling my stomach, but nothing more.

Today we are doing something that is slightly rare, we have been invited to the home of one Ms. Siebner. According to our professors, it is extremely rare to be invited to meet someone in their own home.

Ms. Siebner warmly greets us at the door, and leads us out from the cold into her warm home. Insisting that we all sit oriented so that she can see our faces, we all take turns telling her where we are from.

“Minnesota.”
“Minnesota.”
“Minnesota.”
“Minnesota.”
“Minnesota.”
“… Washington.”
You get the idea.

It was comical going around the room and hearing “Minnesota” after “Minnesota,” minus Nicola’s “California,” Caitlyn’s “Wisconsin,” and my own “Washington.”

In the small time that we have to share with her, Ms. Siebner tells us her story of being a little girl in Nazi occupied Europe. Her story breaks my heart, being one about separation from her father. Arrested for illegally selling books, he disappears for weeks. Only by divorcing him, can his wife save him from imprisonment. And so, she divorces him.

Only secretly can the young Ms. Siebner see her father, and only for short periods of time. Eventually, he emigrates to Shanghai, telling Ms. Siebner before he leaves she should learn English, so that when she comes to China she can live with him.

That is the last time she sees her father. He dies in Shanghai.

We thank Ms. Siebner for her stories, and after taking many a photograph with her big beaming smile, we file back out into the cold and then onto the bus.

It is a shorter day than the others, but just as impactful.

As the sun sets, I am preparing myself for dinner. We are meeting a small group of folks at a charismatic restaurant near Alexanderplatz. From what I understand, the place is called… White Trash Fast Food.

Yes. Indeed.

Thanks for reading, Maxwell Turner, signing off.

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