Rising from the ashes: A panoramic view of German history or futuristic outlook of mankind?

Looking in from the outside, it can be simple for one to so easily misinterpret or even blatantly disregard the history of another. This is because “history” is often viewed as an entirely independent factor of past – a past which is often unwanted for repetition in the future. Though history is taught as a lesson, it is extremely crucial to also realize that history plays a fundamental role when applied in trying to understand a person, country or pattern.

Over the past couple decades, Germany has become one of the role model developed countries of the world due to its thriving economy and relatively high standard of living for its residents. Present day Germany, in most parts, has developed rather quickly, boasting efficiency as well as maintaining priorities in sustainable transport, renewable energy and waste management. The easy access to resources via the internet is irrefutably impressive and effective in maintaining a booming economy. Need to catch a train but don’t have time to stop at the ticket station? Click! Done! Do you want food delivered to your door-step? Click! Done! Need to make an appointment with the doctor? Click! Done! For someone who doesn’t readily have these amenities available, this is seemingly remarkable.

Slow down for a minute though… The fact is, not all roads to such simplicities were so effortless. Germany had to forge its own path and its people made some hard choices, some which proved beneficial and others destructive in nature. On one excursion to the Dresden Panometer, the class of EM43, if they hadn’t already, would soon realize at the bare minimum what it took to become present day Germany. So let’s turn the clock back about 75 years ago to Dresden, Germany, 1945.

Dresden, February 15, 1945

Bright orange flames produce thick black smoke, giving off embers and ashes rising high into what is now a seemingly pitch black sky. The air, hardly breathable, is regrettably the only thing left to be taken away from the regular man and as far as the eyes can see, the once bustling city centre of Dresden, lay in rubbles after three long hellish days of bomb raids from the Allied Forces. Thousands of civilian lives were lost during the three-day airstrike, leaving thousands of others mourning the loss of their loved ones and quite some years of “cleaning” and rebuilding to restore the City of Dresden.

Dresden, was not a city for military defense at the time, but became targeted for bombing to allegedly disrupt communication among the Nazi Party, which was being ran by Adolf Hitler since 1933. Under Hitler’s Chancellorship, approximately 6 million Jews were killed and millions of other people, whom he deemed politically, religiously or racially “unfit” to live among the German population. These persons were often segregated and taken to extermination camps where they would face certain death at the hands of Hitler’s soldiers. This was a tremendously dark time for Germany, one in which being different was a crime and the mere thought of this invoked fear in the heart of millions of people who took refuge there. Hitler’s rule was ended at a great cost of the lives of German civilians in order to save the lives many more.

Moving forward

So, not everything can be taken for face value. Thereafter, Germany sought out progressiveness through economic growth, which not immediately but eventually welcomed diversity, literacy and now the concept of sustainability and environmental cohesiveness. The last factor, more than anything else, is probably what will make us or break us as a people! For years, mankind has struggled to accept diversity and individuality-history lesson #1. However, lesson #2 is ours for the taking, in deciding how our personal choices in the use of our natural resources will affect each other and our children! Each person, each ethnicity, each country has either chosen or needs to choose soon how to live so as to not lead to the demise of mankind through our destructive nature in the unwise and over exploitive use of our natural resources. Yadegar Asisi’s Panometer of Dresden 1945 is not just history. Under different circumstances it is provides a definite insight of mankind’s future should we not understand our weighty dependence on maintaining healthy environmental ecosystems!

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One of the old gas storages in Dresden saved as a historical monument

by Ms. Deidra Mahler, Belize

Back in history with Dresden time machine …

“This fire will return. It will make a large circle and return to devour us”

a citizen, Germany, 1938

Light, red, grey, black.

Again red, grey, black.

Grey and black.

Black and death.

World War II, Dresden, Germany, February 13-15, 1945

3900 tons of high-explosive and fire bombs destroyed over 90% of historic medieval city of Dresden. Thousands of victims disappeared in smoke under the influence of a temperature higher than 1000 °C. During the war, Dresden was a civilian city with no military significance. In the last weeks of the war, the city gave shelter to the thousands of refugees.

Before the war, the former capital of the Kingdom of Saxony was called the “Florence of the Elbe” because of its artistic and architectural wealth. Wars firstly destroy the culture and beauty inside the human beings, and then the next step is the destruction of the external beauty, culture, music, arts, souls. This is what happened in the world during the Second World War.

74 years after the war, the fellows of CIPSEM EM-42 had the opportunity to do a unique journey in the history, experience Dresden of February 1945. The 360° Panorama, created by the artist Yadegar Asisi, takes the visitors of Dresden Panometer back to the past, like a time machine. The day was full of emotions, full of voices, images from the war and we hardly could speak after the visit.

Which military objective justified the hell unleashed on Dresden? Why did they burn its people? If there was no good strategic reason for it, then not even the passage of time can make it right! It was moral bombing that left the humans in a moral dilemma. The questions it poses are as difficult as ever in a world in which civilians continue to suffer in the wars of their autocratic leaders. During the Second World war, some 55 million people dead, some six million Europeans of Jewish faith or background were murdered, a great number of cities in Europe and Germany not more than a desert of rubble. Many survivors remained traumatized, alone and full of fear.

“In its 360° circumference, Yadegar Asisi’s Dresden 1945 Panorama shows a comprehensive circular representation taking account of the many aspects, fates and stories of the bombing raids and extending well beyond the ruined horizon. Yadegar Asisi has created a parabolic work, exemplary for mankind’s history of violence.” (Dr. Gorch Pieken, Scientific Director and Scientific Head of the German Armed Forces’ Museum of Military History in Dresden).

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The visit to the Panometer and the participation in Dresden Human Chain were important for all of us, to learn the other side of the history. We would like to express our gratitude to the organizers and to our Professor of German, Dr. Hendrik Breuls, for this opportunity.

In the end of our visit to Dresden Panometer, I remember the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus.” Are we cured from the war disease?

by Ms. Hasmik Barseghyan (Armenia)

13th February – 360° Panorama Fascination in Dresden

written by Melano Sirbiladze

On February 13th, 21 CIPSEM participants visited the 3600 panorama museum with German teacher Dr. Breuls. This day is a historic day for German people and especially for Dresden citizens. On 13th February 1945 British and United States Army Air forces dropped more than 3900 tons of bombs on the city. Dresden’s city center was severely destroyed.

The museum is very impressive and the atmosphere with emotional music takes you back in time. The amazing 3600 panoramic view, so-called “Dresden 1945” was created by the very famous artist – Yadegar Asisi. The artist dedicated his work to “people thinking about creativity and abysses of human nature, about grim logic and insanity of war in the world” (Yadegar Asisi).

 

In the museum, we “met” people from the past, people who experienced adversity during world war second. For example, we “met” Arno Wend, who was the youngest member of the Dresden City Parliament and unfortunately, was forced to go to Hohnstein concentration camp because of the Nazis. We also saw Jenny Schaffer’s profile. Jenny was an active member of Dresden Semper Opera House. She was Jewish and because of her origin, Henny Schaffer along with her husband was deported to extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were murdered.

We also listened to the stories of the people who experienced bombing during 13-15 February. Ordinary Dresden citizens talked about the unbelievable days they had in 1945. And one might think that these people have only sad, tragic memories but surprisingly in every person’s talk, you will find hope to rebuilt and renew the city.

Overall, for me and I think for every CIPSEM participant, 13th February was full of history, emotions, people, tragedy, and hope. And how surprising it may sound, I still managed to find the beauty in these tragic stories. The Dresden Beauty is that love continues even after death and the impact of that trauma brought people closer together due to the love they shared for the city. In other words, Dresden citizens had carried and still carry the amazing feeling of hope and the feeling to start over. So, as our guide told us, we saw not only the tragedy of Dresden, but people’s strong faith for a better future.

Culture, history and (cleaner) production

There is one of the largest remaining continuous floodplain forests in central Europe – and that’s surprisingly within an urban setting – the city also hosts the second oldest university of Germany (funded in 1409) and was domain to world famous artists like Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, where the ladder was not only a student of the university, but also called the city his “Little Paris” … Leipzig.

The SC-73 course visited the city to get some insights in recent German history in the Forum for Contemporary History in the exhibition “Division and Unity, Dictatorship and Resistance”.

In the afternoon the group had a look into large scale car manufacturing at the BMW production site in Leipzig and according sustainability measures.

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Looking back at SC68 …

Just when I thought my year was exciting already, I was accepted into the 68th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Integrated Water Resource Management and Health. Dresden is a beautiful city full of details to admire. It’s a very clean and quite place, rich in history and culture. It´s very comforting to walk the Altstadt, from the Semper Opera House crossing to the Procession of Princes and arriving into the Frauenkirche. And sometimes you get surprised by a white shiny piano in the middle of the square accompanying a lady singing opera. Dresden being full of green areas has a great transportation system that invites you to any of its museums. The Hygiene Museum is a very curious place, don´t be skeptical about it, try it! Although Germans are very autonomous people they are very friendly and helpers with a good sense of humor. Many times they rescue me in the supermarket trying to get regular sugar or milk. Punctuality is one of their best qualities, so don’t be late in here!

This course was a tight schedule well handled by the CIPSEM staff to deliver water knowledge from all possible angles.  Through lectures and excursions we learned about global water issues, types of treatments, bio-indicators and much more. We visit dams, reservoirs, treatment plants, a pilot project of greywater recycling (impressive!), research centers and institutes for drinking water, wastewater and underground water. Personally I learned new topics: antibiotics residual and sustainable sanitation.  One of the best lectures were Andre’s classes, in which he gave us bridges to cross and doors to open for never stopping to learn. CIPSEM was also the passage to meet foreign friends. I know we all miss the companionship and the amity will be for a lifetime. The different personalities, cultures and traditions made it fun. We never stop learning from each other, even now that we are separate.

I was very happy to accomplish my targets in this course, especially in expanding my world view. And as Dr. Paul said at the Saidenbach Dam: “We are so different but united in this course, why don’t our countries behave the same?”

by Ms. Laize Maite Barranco Pacheco – Panama

Berlin – between the future and the past

The CIPSEM trip to Berlin from the 20th to the 22nd October was a truly marvelous experience. The excursion to the German Energy Agency and the German Energy Association of Energy Cooperatives was overly interesting and useful. Both resource persons had an excellent sense of humor which greatly contributed to a sense of camaraderie among the group.
However, for me, the true highlight of the excursion was being able to finally practically envisage the remains of the Berlin Wall after having been provided with an excellent historical overview in our first week at CIPSEM (complete with a quirky, hilarious video!!). Looking at the wall was a truly humbling experience as I was mentally transported back in time to the 9th of November 1989. I imagined the scores of people who had come to witness this historical occasion, the breaking down of a barrier that had separated brothers, sisters,sons, daughters cousins, friends…..finally being brought down. The tears of joy commingled with tears of anguish brought on by the effusion of emotion on this day must have flowed both fervently and freely. I stood there transfixed next to Checkpoint Charlie and imagined individuals getting their passports stamped in order to cross into West Berlin and back into East Berlin.
The enormity of it all cannot be put into words. Staying on an extra day after part of the group left Berlin allowed myself and one of my colleagues to take a city tour on the ubiquitous red “double decker” bus. We were taken on a trip down memory lane to Karl Max Street, complete with the German Democratic Republic (GDR) styled houses whose design was mandated by the government at the time, complete with certain symbols above the eaves of each window. We also got to see the captivating Berlin Bridge in seemingly suspended animation with the modern day yellow train traversing its lower reaches, a perfect juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern.
My Berlin experience was a personal indictment of the fact that a Wall could not and cannot solve political or ideological differences in the past or in the present.The willingness to respect other people’s opinions and genuinely listen to their viewpoints is what ultimately will see a semblance of peace returning to our tumultuous world.
by Mr. James Paul Mwangi – Kenya