Holocaust Studies Tour, 2024, Day 3

The Memorial at Brandenburg

I’m going to be super brief today. I need to catch up on sleep.

We spent the day with historian and educator (and friend), Christian Marx. He works at the Brandenburg Euthanasia Memorial where he, among other responsibilities, organizes and leads group interactions with the history of the National Socialists’ attempt to rid the German public of “lives unworthy of life,” a phrase coined by academics over a decade before the Nazi’s came to power. Yes, it is a dark, dark topic. But the students did so very well. Christian met us in Berlin where we first interacted with the “Trains to Life, Trains to Death” Memorial at Friedrichstraβe Station, and then boarded a regional train for Brandenburg an der Havel. We walked through this beautiful and historic city (going back to the 11th century!) stopping to see a beautiful church and a marker lauding the actions of a local lawyer who failed to be a part of the growing culture of death, Lothar Kressig. Then on to the memorial itself, where we learned about the unique role this location played, as a starting point of sorts, in the holocaust (broadly understood) that was to unfold over the next 6 years. Our time with Christian crescendoed with a group discussion dealing with primary materials from the testimonies of doctors and nurses placed on trail for their euthanasia-style killings – as compared with those who were approached but refused to serve. (Around 9k people with “disabilities,” as defined by the Nazi understanding of usefulness, were euthanized with carbon monoxide gas at Brandenburg alone – all within a brief 10 month window of time. Lessons learned and people trained at this facility were later sent to places like Auschwitz.) The students were exceptionally responsive and engaged with this difficult subject matter. Both Christian and I remarked at the substantial nature of the conversation and discussion (and questions) that emerged over the course of the day. It is very clear that these students have come to learn…this is so encouraging to everyone that works with them.

Below are some pics from the day.

Tomorrow we take a bit of a break for our subject matter as we travel to Lutherstadt (Wittenberg) to have a guided tour about “all things Luther.”