The German Resistance Memorial by Marisa Diaz Bonacquisti and Talulah Geheim

Marisa Diaz Bonacquisti

The German Resistance Memorial Center is located at the historic “Bendler Block,” the unofficial name for the German Military Leadership Center. This memorial commemorates the attempted coup against the National Socialist regime that took place at this site on July 20, 1944. Along with the attempted coup, the memorial commemorates other resisters—both groups and individuals—across Germany. This space acts as a site of remembrance that showcases the various forms and motives of German resisters during the National Socialist era. In Germany, remembrance is an act of resistance against the oppressive ideologies of the Nazi regime. Public monuments like the German Resistance Memorial Center complicate master narratives about Germans during the World Wars in an accessible and educational way. The frameworks we have been working with (Black Feminism, Transnational Feminism, and Critical Race Theory) examine the dangers of simplifying atrocities and thus prioritize taking the most complex approach possible. The simplification of master narratives in storytelling often allows oppressors to absolve themselves of accountability, especially in regard to reparations. The memorial both complicates German experiences during the Holocaust and teaches visitors about allyship and the extent required to do so effectively. At the memorial, I was heavily guided by a notion mentioned during our Jewish History & Culture Walking Tour with Adam Schonfeld that morning: memorials reflect more about who made them than who they commemorate. As I paired this notion with my built understanding of counter-storytelling, the significance of the space became much more nuanced than simply being a sight for commemoration. Master narratives related to the Holocaust often exclude marginalized peoples within Germany, such as Black people and Sinti and Roma people; yet, this memorial challenges these ideas by conveying solidarity and allyship amongst women, children, and other marginalized groups facing oppression.

Marisa Diaz Bonacquisti is a Chicana and Italian from Denver’s Northside with a passion for art as resistance. Her culture, community, and language have deeply informed her academic pursuits and aspirations, as well as her professional path. As such, Marisa is a rising junior double-majoring in Southwest Studies and Spanish (Hispanic Studies). She has a focus in public art and is especially excited about Berlin’s street art!

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As a Race, Ethnicity, & Migration Studies major, I am somewhat familiar with the racialization of Jewish people and their contemporary relationship to whiteness in the U.S. However, because of my critique of whiteness, especially as a BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) student at a predominantly white college, the narrative of Jewish people being racialized was not the easiest for me to understand. As I walked through the German Resistance Memorial and Jewish History Tour, I realized the definitions I previously learned about racialization were not exactly applicable regarding the racialization Nazis imposed on Jews. For example, “Jew” was not just attached to phenotype; it was also attached to ancestry and religious practice. However, racialization as we understand it now was only a part that played into the narrative of what defined a “Jewish” person during the Holocaust. The American education system typically teaches about the survivors and victims of the Holocaust from a very white male perspective. After reading “Trouble Categories I Can’t Think Without: Reflections on Women in The Holocaust” by R. Ruth Linden, I began to think more about how I imagine victims of the Holocaust. The refugee stories of those who escaped persecution or those who survived through hiding in margin areas were rarely told besides that of Anne Frank. The stories of those who were persecuted for political identities, sexual identities, disabilities, and those who helped people survive are rarely told, as well. The fact that people besides Jewish people were persecuted was familiar to me, but not fully processed. I am pleased to know there is a space for untold stories. Reading the stories of survivors facing political execution gave me the perspective and knowledge I needed to reframe my perception of Holocaust survivors, victims, and resistors.

by Talulah Geheim

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Jewish History Walking Tour with Adam Schonfeld by Brailey Harris and Emma Fowkes

Brailey Harris

Umwelt is a German philosophical concept which identifies the inherent self-centeredness of the individual’s world perspective. This is a notion I learned within my first week at Colorado College. Now, in Berlin, it informs my understanding of how marginalized communities so distinct from my own respond to and resist the marginalization that affects them. Critical Race Theory challenges binary notions of race that guide past and present day institutions (including our legal systems) and forms remembrance of the past. This walking tour expanded my understanding of processes of racialization, especially through the example of the Nuremberg Laws. These laws tracked the ancestry of Germans and labeled any individual with at least one Jewish grandparent “Jewish,” regardless of their religious affiliation, personal identification, and, to an extent, phenotypic features. Here, Nazi Germany effectively created a common, racially based, enemy of the state. This exposes race as an institutional structure that preserves the sociopolitical supremacy of the ruling class. Transnational Feminist Theory also informs my understanding of Jewish people in Germany, especially because the racialization of the Jewish population necessitated homogenization across racial, political, and gender lines. In “Troubling Categories I Can’t Think Without: Reflections On Women in the Holocaust,” Ruth Linden emphasizes the harm this causes for women affected by the Holocaust, because it negates the cultural differences that inform the ways women reacted to and resisted subjugation under the Nazi regime. In addition, our tour guide Adam explained that a disproportionate percentage of elderly women who died in the Holocaust actually committed suicide, choosing to end their life on their own terms. Umwelt has become increasingly important to my understanding of the theoretical frameworks guiding this course, because it necessitates an understanding of intragroup differences and, therefore, the persistent exercising of individual autonomy as a form of resistance.

Brailey Harris is a rising sophomore at Colorado College and a Texas native. They enjoy slam poetry, speaking out of turn, and playing rugby for the school’s Cutthroat Trout club team. Brailey’s major is currently undeclared, but they hope to intertwine their passions for understanding both people and the planet.

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Emma Fowkes

Adam told us the story of Martha Liebermann as we stood around her memorial plaque, one of more than 70,000 “Stumbling Stones” placed outside of Holocaust victims’ last known residence. He explained how the majority of  Jews who were able to escape Germany before the war were wealthier, educated, men. It was much more difficult for women, especially widowed women with fewer resources, to secure a job in their destination country. As a result, large numbers of elderly women were left behind. Liebermann’s life was certainly not representative of most German Jewish women, as she was the wife of a very prominent artist, but I would argue her death was. After being subject to years of socioeconomic abuse by the German government, left by her other family members, and prevented from fleeing, she took her own life the day before her planned deportation to a concentration camp. The way Jewish women experienced the violence of the Holocaust is often not revealed by these memorials alone, but by paying attention to the particulars of someone’s story. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “intersectionality” calls on us to investigate difference. Contributing to both Black Feminist and Critical Race theories, she describes how the experiences of Black women “cannot be captured wholly by looking at the race or gender dimensions of those experiences separately.” Along these lines, Jewish women experienced sexism and antisemitism. As Liebermann’s story shows, ones experience during the Holocaust was especially impacted by wealth, marital status, and age. The tour also gave us tools to think critically about memorials. Similarly, Sabine Offe writes about Jewish museums as mechanism that isolate memories of the Holocaust from contemporary everyday life, providing a contained environment for non-Jewish Germans to deal with generational guilt. The “Stumbling Stones,” along with many of the sites we visited, present a new way of remembering. Highly public, omnipresent, and individualized, these memorials offer an opportunity to remember continually and honestly without immediately seeking to contain, control, and move on.

Emma Fowkes is a rising senior at Colorado College majoring in Sociology but doing her best to take classes across as many disciplines as possible. She spends a lot of her time training in the sprints, jumps, throws, and hurdles for the college’s track and field team, as well as leading Injustice Watch, the student court-watching organization. After Berlin, she is planning on returning to her family’s home in Wilmette, Illinois to do research on the El Paso County Judicial System and work as an usher at a local music venue. Recently, she completed her first “moderate” level sudoku puzzle.

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The 2022 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

Click here to view a slideshow of pictures, and follow @FemGeniuses and|or @AudresFootsteps on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook to see more pictures and videos.

Multimedia Podcast Index:

The RomaniPhen Feminist Archive + the Romanja Power Walking Tour with Estera Iordan” by Christiana García-Soberanez
A Conversation with Jasmin Eding” by Eliza Strong
Jewish History & Culture Walking Tour + Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt with Adam Schonfeld” by Bridget Hanley
BlackEurope: The Beginnings of Black Self-Organization in Europe” by Erin Huggins
German Colonialism Walking Tour w/ Josephine Apraku + the Neues Museum” by Amalia Lopez
A Conversation with Sharon Dodua Otoo” by Latra Demaçi
The Wall Museum + the Berliner Unterwelten Tour” by Margalit Goldberg
Blackness in America and Europe: Where the Grey Space Exists” by Monica Carpenter
A Conversation with Dana Maria Asbury, Mona El Omari, and Iris Rajanayagam” by Vicente Blas-Taijeron
Graffiti & Street Art Walking Tour + the Urban Nation Museum” by Alexis Cornachio
A Conversation with Judy Lynne Fisher” by River Clarke
Queer Berlin Walking Tour w/ Mal Pool + the Schwules*Museum” by Riley Hester
A Street Art Workshop with Berlin Massive” by Judy Gonzalez

To read and|or listen to the finales and view the indices and slideshows for previous #FemGeniusesinBerlin, click here

Jewish History & Culture Walking Tour + Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt with Adam Schonfeld

by Bridget Hanley

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

The heroes of the Holocaust…yes, they exist.

Can you, reader, name one Jewish person remembered from the Holocaust? Anne Frank? Ok, that’s great. Now, one more. Got one? Nope? I wouldn’t have either before today. This is embarrassing to admit but true. There were, however, heroes of this era, people who worked against the persecution of Jews whose names and stories are often not given the recognition they deserve. This blatantly contrasts the more well-known horrifying and villainous actions of the Nazi Germans. That is what I aim to shed light on in this blog.

I was amazed by all we learned from our guide, Adam Schonfeld. I was not surprised by the disgusting treatment of anyone that did not fit the “perfect homogenous mold” at this time. But I was incredibly awestruck learning about the tales of Herbert Baum, Otto Weidt, and Inge Deutschkron, and others. I hope to briefly show why these people and their stories should not be drowned out by the acts of their perpetrators. I came to the conclusion that while the tragedies of the Holocaust must be learned, respected, and mourned, this should not subsequently erase the resistance within that time period that must also be studied, appreciated, and celebrated.

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

After starting at the Brandenburg Gate and Max Liebermann’s house, we moved on to Bebelplatz, which is surrounded by Humboldt University, the State Opera building, and St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, where we were greeted by some light rain. There, we learned about the 1933 Nazi book burning organized by the National Socialist Student Union at Humboldt (then Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität). We also saw The Empty Library, a memorial in the center of the square that subtly commemorates the burning. The Empty Library is an underground display with no signs letting you know it’s there—there are simply empty white bookshelves you look down into. The emptiness of the shelves and the piece as a whole represents the void Adam helped contextualize when he asked, “How do you remember something that does not exist?”

While at this stop, we also learned about Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), a man who was a doctor…a Jew…and gay. Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee in 1897, the Institute of Sexual Research in 1919, and the World League for Sexual Reform in 1921. Still his work is overlooked by those who think more about the sexual liberation movement in the U.S. in the 1960s and 70s. While he was on one of his tours abroad, Hitler raided his home in Germany leaving him to know he would never be able to return. His institute was also raided, and his books were burned at Bebelplatz. All of the progression he created was erased and had to be started from scratch by others years after the end of World War II.

After making a quick stop at the Neue Wache, a memorial that vaguely commemorates all victims of all wars and tyrannies, we headed for Museum Island. While admiring them from the bench outside, we were instructed to look at this somewhat odd cube structure with block letter writing on it. It is a discrete memorial created in the 1980s in remembrance of Herbert Baum (1912-1942). Baum was a working class Jewish electrician, and as a teenager, he was very politically engaged. In 1936, his family decided to flee to Brazil in fear of Hitler’s rise. It was very expensive and difficult to leave, so he opted to stay behind to fight for Jewish liberation. He was a forced laborer at Siemens and was able to meet other Jews and create friendships. He and his friends began to sabotage their assignments, steal from the company, and work together as means of survival. These plans turned from survival strategies to a movement in 1942. At the time, there was massive German support of the war efforts, and the supporters were planning an exhibit to dehumanize Jews. Bahm began losing hope, as there were fewer and fewer Jews left in Berlin or even all of Germany. So, in an acceptance of his fate, he stole electrical equipment from Siemens in an attempt to destroy the exhibit. This was his way of showing that even though many Jews were losing hope, there were still people alive and fighting. The attack was arguably unsuccessful, as the explosions did not cause much damage and one million Germans returned to the site the very next day. Additionally, Baum and nine others between the ages of 20-23, including four women, were charged with “conspiracy to commit treason” but were prosecuted as Jews. He was, to no surprise, found guilty and sentenced to death. However, he committed suicide while incarcerated before his sentencing. He risked it all to fight against the Nazis and give hope to and light a fire within other Jews still trying to survive.

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

Next, we went to “Block der Frauen,” a memorial remembering non-Jewish German women who protested for the release of their Jewish husbands in 1943. When their husbands did not return from work one day, it was assumed they were taken by the Nazis. These women then used their privilege to protest. And guess what? It was successful! These women were German citizens the police could not do much to while still trying to retain the respect and support of German citizens. So, they released the men. And guess what else? This was the only known visual protest of Germans against the deportation of Jews. This makes me wonder, why did no one else step up? While these women were important, as they did stand up for the freedom of Jews, I hesitate to group them with the other heroes we learned about. They were more positioned to succeed because they were white German citizens. For this reason, their story tends to be romanticized. In reflecting on this story and the memorial, then, we should think deeper about those that had the opportunity to do something and did not.

Our last stop was at the oldest Jewish cemetery in Berlin that had stopped being used in the 1820s, more than one hundred years before Hitler came into power. Still, Hitler’s ultimate goal of the extermination of all Jews meant leaving no trace. So, as forced labor, Jews were forced to remove the caskets and tombstones. After a brutal fight in the streets in 1945, 2,000 civilians died, and their bodies were buried there. German bodies. Likely anti-Jewish ones. Replacing the Jewish spots in the grave—the Nazis took every single thing that they could from them.

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

After lunch, we headed towards the Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. In two groups, we walked through the building that was discovered by four students working on a project in the early 2000s. It had been completely abandoned fifty years before that. The museum was formerly a workshop where brooms and brushes were created owned by a partially-blind German man named Otto Weidt. He employed approximately forty vision-impaired Jews, extending their lifeline as the Holocaust progressed. For years, he insisted the workers were essential because of their heightened sense of touch due, bribing police to ignore what he was doing and selling equipment to the military. While he was still arrested numerous times, he continued to escape the police and, even when ultimately being caught, faced no punishment. Inge Deutschkron, a workshop employee, later devoted her life to sharing her story and the stories of Otto Weidt and the other employees. As the Inge Deutschkron Foundation writes, “A long life of fighting for justice and against anti-Semitic and right-wing tendencies in our society has come to an end, we are losing a combative friend.” She passed away five months before her 100th birthday on May 9, 2022, just three months before we visited and learned about her heroic legacy.

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

Hitler’s reign was one that, although hard to learn about, must be remembered. However, what we learned from Adam made me come to a new personal realization that I hope you also recognize. While the tragedies of the Holocaust deserve to be mourned and respected, the achievements must also be praised and celebrated. Hirschfeld was once photographed while in drag and was committed to gay pride when it was illegal! Baum fought for Jewish liberation even after being separated from his family to show the Jews had not given up! Women had a successful anti-deportation protest! Weidt built a workshop to keep Jews alive and aided Deutschkron in her escape to freedom! And she fought against anti-Semitism her whole life to advocate for those who could not! They were utterly incredible. That is not to say all Jews were either selfless or heroes. Some worked with the Nazis to expose other Jews to save themselves. And that does not make them evil people. Only complicated. Human. Still, there were heroes of the Holocaust whose diaries are not read in elementary schools and whose stories aren’t told in Hollywood movies that still deserve to not have their experiences and resistance recognized.

Bridget Hanley is a rising junior from Washington, DC. She is a Business, Economics, and Society major at Colorado College (CC), and this is her very first Feminist and Gender Studies course. This is also her first CC study abroad course. She is really enjoying it so far, and she is looking forward to class discussions, tours, and reading her peers’ blogs. She is very excited to be in Berlin for the first time and cannot wait to continue exploring the city.

Some Final Thoughts on the 2019 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

Top (L to R): Matthew FitzGibbon, Bella Staal, Kelsey Mattox, Cam Kaplan, Samuel Vang, Maggie O’Brien, Avia Hailey, Nizhooni Hurd, Alexander Jobin-Leeds, and Lauren Hough; Middle (L to R): Miles Marshall, Professor Heidi R. Lewis, Cameron Bacher, Nicole Berlanga, and Eileen Huang; and Bottom (L to R): Caroline Livaditis, Maysie Poland, Mekael Daniel, Dana Maria Asbury (Course Associate), Mimi Norton de Matos, and Zivia Berkowitz

have to start by saying that the five-year anniversary of the course started out with a bang for a few reasons:

  • It’s the first time the course has been full. In fact, we exceeded the maximum enrollment limit of 16 by one student;
  • two of my students were able to secure funding to come conduct research—Judy Fisher, Feminist & Gender Studies Major ’20, 2019-2020 Triota President, 2018-2019 Shannon McGee Prize winner, and Fall 2017 #FemGeniusesinBerlin alum came to conduct transnational studies of American Indigeneity; and Mekael Daniel, Feminist & Gender Studies Major ’20 and 2019-2020 Triota Vice President came to conduct transnational studies of Blackness;
  • and we were joined by my niece-cousin-boo from Memphis, TN, Kelsey Nichole Mattox, who turned 18 and graduated from high school recently. So, her presence was especially meaningful. In fact, she had never gotten on an airplane until she traveled here, excitedly letting us know, “I decided to go all the way!”

Judy and Mekael arrived the same day I did, and we trekked to Radebeul (near Dresden) to attend the Karl May Festival so Judy could observe, think about, and examine Native American participation in predominantly white festival culture in Germany, as well as white Native American hobbyism. Imagine the raised-eyebrows of every single one of my friends and comrades in Berlin when I told the about this—haha. Judy and Mekael also went to the Great Indian Meeting at the El Dorado theme park in Templin the following weekend to continue Judy’s work. Shoutout to my colleague, Dr. Santiago Ivan Guerra (Associate Professor of Southwest Studies at Colorado College), for introducing Judy to the significance of hobbyism in Germany, illustrating the collective efforts necessary for critical theory work.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that it’s been a while since the #FemGeniusesinBerlin were so full of #BlackGirlMagic (2015 was the last time, to be exact), and I couldn’t have been more excited about that. One adorable and powerful manifestation of that was Avi(a) leading several rounds of “Deep Truth, Truth,” a game that allowed her to bond with her classmates, especially her roommates, but also with Dana and I one day during lunch. “Deep Truth, Truth” starts with someone asking another person if they’d like to share a deep truth or what one might refer to as a “regular” truth. A “regular truth” could be anything from sharing your favorite color to a song that you hate; however, a “deep truth” is usually something that one might not share in a group like this, because lots of us don’t know each other well enough to be comfortable with that kind of vulnerability. Then, once the person being questioned decides what kind of truth they want to share, the questioner asks a question. After the question is answered, the person being questioned then gets to ask another person in the group a question. I got to ask and answer twice (one truth and one deep truth), and learned a lot about the students that day. Neat stuff.

In “short,” the 2019 #FemGeniusesinBerlin were such a great bunch even though we most certainly hit a few snags along the way. Here are some (definitely not all) of the most memorable moments:

  1. The weather hitting 90F degrees, something I’m pretty sure never happened in years past, and doing so several days each week.
  2. Bella’s cube bear.
  3. Mekael, Judy, and I being photographed by a stranger (with consent) at the Karl May Festival and finding the very poorly-filtered but very cute photograph on social media (posted with consent).
  4. Lauren’s RBF and fierce modeling skills.
  5. Avia’s phone fan and ridiculous pranks.
  6. Zander playing Captain Save ‘Em, and gettin’ hollered at all along the way.
  7. Eileen’s “hey.”
  8. Nicole being almost entirely silent then shakin’ up the space with the loudest, most hilarious laugh you ever did hear.
  9. Vang asking to sit on our roof (which would most certainly result in his untimely death), asking about transporting beer back to the U.S., telling us he got “hemmed up by 12” (which turned out to mean he was approached by some ticket-checkers on the subway and allowed to continue his trip with a mere warning…side eye), telling folks about sex stores, and gettin’ hollered at for almost every single thing all along the entire way.
  10. Discussing the advantages and risks of comparative analysis.
  11. Mimi’s sneakin’ in and slam-dunking the graffiti workshop brainstorming session.
  12. Miles’ hair flips, especially because they don’t even have a lot of hair, and lessons in lipstick.
  13. Caroline “showing off” her knowledge of the German language (see below).
  14. Matt trolling the entire class almost the entire time and then agreeing to draw a troll during our graffiti workshop.
  15. DeAira Cooper, 2015 #FemGeniusesinBerlin alum, coming to visit.
  16. Dr. W. Christopher Johnson, Assistant Professor of History and the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto and husband of our Course Associate Dana Asbury, coming for a visit and joining us for a few sessions.

I could go on and on and on. I will never forget this group. Such a great summer through it all, which led to my new phrases: Must be June. Must be Berlin.

2019 FemGeniuses in Berlin Podcast Index:
Click here to view a slideshow, and follow us on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook to see more pictures and videos!

Jewish Berlin Tour” by Nizhooni Hurd
Topography of Terror” by Zander Jobin-Leeds
Jasmin Eding” by Avia Hailey
German Colonialism Walking Tour” by Mimi Norton de Matos
Each One Teach One e.V.” by Maysie Poland
RAA Berlin” by Nicole Berlanga
RomaniPhen e.V.” by Samuel Vang
Pořajmos Walking Tour” by Cam Kaplan
Synchronicity with Sharon Dodua Otoo” by Maggie O’Brien
Rebellious Berlin Walking Tour” by Bella Staal
FHXB Museum” by Lauren Hough
The Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism” by Cameron Bacher
Queer Berlin Walking Tour” by Miles Marshall
Schwules* Museum” by Eileen Huang
Trans*sexworks” by Zivia Berkowitz
Graffiti Workshop with Berlin Massive” by Mekael Daniel
Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art” by Caroline Livaditis
Street Art and Graffiti Walking Tour” by Matt FitzGibbon

To read and/or listen to the finales and view the indices and slideshows for previous FemGeniuses in Berlin, click here