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Dividing time

We knew before going, that one of the most important things was ensuring that everyone was able to do what they wanted. For example, I really wanted to visit the carpark above the Fuhrerbunker in order to collect primary research for the basis of my project. No one had any issues with it, as we were all happy to do things as a group.



Educating ourselves

I really wanted to immerse myself in places that were so rich with information. For example, in the Topography of Terror museum, I sat alone for around an hour listening to audio clips of Polish writers, men within the Gestapo and many more, noting down everything and trying to visualise the history in my mind. I think this was really important. For many young people it’s hard to find meters upon meters of text truly engaging, no matter what the subject. However, I knew that this is something that can’t just be glazed over. I wanted to absorb as much as I could, and luckily so did everyone else. We ended up staying around two hours.



Collecting information

Throughout the trip I used my film camera as my means of collecting primary research, as well as noting down transcripts (as mentioned above). However, I wanted much of my research to be physical, and about how I felt in a certain environment, or how it affected us as a group. Berlin is a place that is pregnant with history. The air is heavy with it. You can feel the past of certain places, especially above the Fuhrerbunker, in Teufelsberg and around the remnants of the wall. You are so horrified that something like this could have ever happened, staring between the rows and rows of concrete slabs in the Holocaust memorial. Places like the Jewish Museum are filled wall to wall with narratives, amongst objects held dear to slaughtered Jews. The weight of an object like this, behind the glass, is indescribable. The way it makes you feel is something you can’t put into words, or capture in a picture.



Time to scrapbook

Every night, we allocated the time before dinner to mull over what happened during the day. We used this time to scrapbook, collage and write down our thoughts in our sketchbooks. I found this really helpful as my thoughts were fresh in my mind, ready to be transferred onto the page. There are certain words and phrases that stay in your mind after collecting research in a place like Berlin. ‘Brisk business’, ‘I’m not a communist, what are you doing’, ‘The ravens remain, shots disperse them’ are some I still remember.



Losing my voice

Halfway through the trip, I began to get very ill. I completely lost my voice, and this almost completely tied into the theme of silence. I couldn’t speak. In a group of six, this is ridiculously alienating. I had to hold my hand up, before whispering some input in a conversation. I have no way of knowing what it must feel like to be voiceless, but if this is even what it feels like 0.6%, it’s horrible.



Getting norovirus

After I lost my voice, I decided to let my body rest while the others went clubbing. Suddenly, I realised I had caught norovirus, and spent the next 12 hours in a delirium, and, you know the rest. What struck me most about this time, and if you’ve had the virus, you know how both debilitating and contagious it is, is how amazing the girls in my group were being towards me. I didn’t want anyone to see me, so my friend Tash sat on the other side of the bathroom door for 4 hours while I slept on the tile floor, just trying to chat to me, trying to get my mind off it.

© Molly Wilhelmina Johnson, all rights reserved