Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Berlin, Boot Testing and Beat Downs

        I want to first apologize to those of you loyal readers (probably just my parents) who have been holding their breath, sitting on the edge of their chairs, and filling with anxiety/worry/anticipation since I missed my first blog update last week. I promise to make up for this absence with some interesting cheerleader shots and other pictures for the next two weeks.
        Going into our final regular season game we had some pressure to win to help our playoff seeding. For the third time this year we made the trek to Berlin, this time to play last-place Bernau. In our first two trips we had four players foul out of each game and were so short on players one game we had to finish the game short-handed. Not surprisingly, we lost both games. Taking the importance of the game and our seeming proclivity to foul in Berlin, the decision was made to take a whopping 8 players with a no-fouling game plan....
      Luckily the referees swallowed their whistles for most of the game, and despite some interesting basketball tactics from the opposing team...

... and a late comeback run, we sealed a 4 point victory and clinched second place in the Northern division.

    I was able to spend the night in Berlin with my family and Nicole who was able to make quick visit. On Sunday we revisited the East Side Gallery to see the graffiti on what remains of the Berlin wall and then crossed Berlin to see the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Museum.

        Sachsenhausen was primarily used for political prisoners and acted as the headquarters for German efforts to undermine the American and English economies through counterfeiting and distributing large amounts of U.S. dollars and British pounds. Part of the plan included dropping millions of pounds over Britain to weaken the British currency. I wish that there was a similar plan for a drop over Herten in the next few days.
        Similar to the camp I went to in Vught, the perimeter of Sachsenhausen was lined with two fences and a gravel 'neutral zone' where prison guards were instructed to, and rewarded for, shooting any prisoner who stepped on the gravel.

         This memorial commemorates the liberation of the camp by Soviet soldiers. It was apparently redone multiple times to eliminate the sense of the prisoners as victims and the Soviets as heros, instead making prisoners in front look more like brothers in arms against a common force with the Soviet soldier in the back. 

       This seemed slightly ironic when I learned that after the war, the Soviet secret service, the NKVD, used the camp to house their own prisoners. Of the 60,000 prisoners detained there over the camp's five year existence, most had ties to the Nazi party or were arrested for hindering the establishment of Stalinism.  These camps were kept hidden from the Western world.

       One of the most interesting things we saw at the camp was the boot testing track the Nazi's installed. There was a semi-circular path in the main yard made up of six or seven different surfaces ranging from dirt/mud to rocks and tar that were used to test the durability of different German army boot prototypes. The camp commanders strapped 40 pound packs on the prisoners to simulate the load a soldier would carry and had prisoners walk back and forth along the path for up to 20 miles a day. In between laps, the prisoners had to do various calisthenics to mimic the actions of German soldiers.

     Also made a return trip to Cologne, this time to check the Cathedral out at night. I think the picture speaks for itself.

        On Friday we hosted the first round of playoffs and rewarded a sold out crowd with a 22-0 start. Our quick start earned 2 thumbs up and proved to be insurmountable for Breitengüssbach. 

Our league splits Germany in half, with 12 teams in both the North and the South.  The playoffs pit the top 8 teams in the North against our southern counterparts in best of 3 series. On Saturday we will travel down to Breitengüssbach to hopefully sweep the first round. Despite our easy win last weekend, we have seen that anything can happen on the road in this league so we definitely aren't taking anything for granted.

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