Happy Labour Day everybody! I just wanted to update everybody on my trip to Hamburg over the weekend! Super casual, I know. I woke up at 6:30 in the morning because I had to pack, eat breakfast, and then get ready to leave. I had to leave at 7:15 to catch my train (they only come every 20 minutes on the weekend). Just as I left home, I saw Steen and Soren pulling out of the driveway to go pick up a table. I wasn’t expecting this at all, but Steen pulled up alongside the driveway and asked me if I had called for a taxi to take me to the Virum station. So cute! I really lucked out with my host family situation. They are all so wonderful. :). My suitcase and I hitched a ride to the station and I only had to wait a few minutes for my line to come.
Then came waiting for our bus in the city. It was a little late, but that gave me time to get to know my professor. Apparently, he grew up in Virum, the town I am living in now, he has been to Carleton before, and he loves Minnesota! Usually when I ask Danes where they have been in the states it’s places like New York City or San Francisco, so I was pleasantly surprised that he preferred Minnesota, because I do too! Once we got on the bus, we had a 2 hour long bus ride, a 45 minute ferry ride to get to Germany, and another 2 to 2 and a half hours on the bus again. I’m pretty sure I slept most of the way, but when I was awake, the view of the countryside was simply gorgeous! It was so green and lush with open fields everywhere. So so lovely.
On our way to the hostel, we stopped at the Bullenhuser Damn School in Hamburg. There were heavy air raids there during the war, and that goes for most of Hamburg, but the school was not heavily damaged. A physician named Kurt Heissmeyer needed to have original research in order to become a professor, so got 20 Jewish children from the Auschwitz concentration camp and they were sent to Neuengamme. A man named Josef Mengele picked them children by supposedly asking the children who wanted to go see their moms. 😦 Heissmeyer then made a surgical incision and put live tuberculosis into the children’s underarms. Of course, all of the kids became ill. When Germany was collapsing, they decided that they needed to rid of all the evidence of their crimes. On April 20, 1945, the kids and their caretakers were killed in the basement of the Bullenhuser Damn School. Our professor told us that the children were too weak to be hanged normally, so they actually had to hold their feat down to actually hang them. Now the cellar where their murders took place serves as a memorial. We did not get to go inside the building because it was closed when we got there. But, there was also a really pretty rose garden as a memorial to all of the victims with their pictures and as much information as possible about them.
Next I went to my first hostel! It was actually really nice and I only had two other roommates. I didn’t stay in there very long though. Then we went to the Kunsthalle art museum. We didn’t have too much time, so me and the girls I was with tried to look for the Alice in Wonderland exhibit. Once we actually found it, it was really confusing! There were all these different passages you could go into and it was basically like a maze with all these different doors. Some of it was a little trippy, but it was a good way to spend some time. Right after that, we went to dinner at a restaurant called SchlachterborseIn. It is basically a meat house, but they knew that I was a vegetarian when I came in, so I got some delicious tomato soup and a plate full of yummy vegetables. It was really good! I was even surprised to find out that we were getting ice cream too. I was full, but I still ate it. We had the rest of the evening to ourselves. I went with two other girls to a festival in Hamburg. There was a bunch of music, food vendors, and even a ferris wheel! Hamburg is a lot more smokey than Copenhagen for sure. I definitely had to put my scarf in my face while we were walking around, but it was still pretty cool to see.
The next day we had breakfast at the hostel and then went to Nicolai Kirche, a church in Hamburg. Hamburg was a strategic port city during the Nazi regime, so the Allies heavily bomed it between 1939 and 1943. The most famous instance is called “Operation Gommorah,” where the Allies created a firestore that killed 46,000 Germans. Nicolai Kirche was one of the few landmarks left standing after that and is now a memorial for all of the deaths from World War II.
Then we stopped at lunch at a HUGE buffet! Everything looked so good. Of course I couldn’t eat everything, but there were croissants, fruit, a variety of cheeses, pasta, seasoned vegetables, and dessert! We were all stuffed after that lunch. It was a good thing we could sleep it off on our way to the Neuengamme concentration camp. Neuengamme was a forced labor camp used by the Nazis. They mostly produced bricks there. Prisoners only got one slice of bread in the morning and a cup of coffee made out of barely…..so not really coffee. Our professor showed as around the camp and told us what everything was. If you worked outside, you most likely had to dig for clay in the ditches. The prisoners were only given clogs, and it wasn’t surprising if you were given two left shoes or something like that. You got what you got. Then, you had to run with your shovel, dig up the clay, and then run back. If you weren’t moving the SS guards would more than likely beat you, hence the running all the time. Also, if you accidentally spilled the clay, it was seen as sabotage or some sign against the Nazi regime because you were spilling their resources. I can’t imagine doing that in the winter months. According to our prof, sometimes the prisoners feet would freeze when they were digging for the clay, and when they stuck their shovel in the ground, they would also chop some of their toes off without even feeling it. There was also a recreation center which was just an open field. The SS guards would make the prisoners do exercise for their own entertainment and beat or shot the prisoners who couldn’t keep up on the spot. Seeing an actual concentration camp was a chilling experience, but it was something that I wanted to do. I’m glad I got to experience it.