Veterans Day Greetings; Experiencing World War II/Cold War History Lessons In Berlin

Old Glory flies above the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, taken from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. (CHRIS COCOLES)

Happy Veterans Day and thanks to all of those servicemen and -women who have served and fought to protect our freedoms. Last month I went on a trip to Germany and the Czech Republic (Czechia). The main purpose of going was for myself and family members to see our favorite hockey team, the San Jose Sharks, play games in Berlin and Prague. But for me, I knew my first time in Germany would be a history lesson, particularly in the form of World War II sites and also the aftermath in Berlin, which post-surrender by the Third Reich was divided into four sectors, British, French, American and Russian.

So needless to say, I was equal parts fascinated and outraged when visiting the Checkpoint Charlie Museum that straddles the border between West and East Berlin. And there were plenty of World War II sites, including the haunting Topography of Terror, which illustrates Nazi atrocities that occurred between the planned 1,000-Year Reich that fortunately only spanned 12 years (1933-1945) before the Allies toppled Germany.

Modern-day Berlin is diverse, tolerant and vibrant. But it’s also a city with a haunted and infamous past, and that was evident in the aforementioned museums and other stops we made, including an Anne Frank museum that retraces the German-born teenager’s tragic story that ultimately ended in her death at one of the Nazis’ concentration camps, and the German Resistance Memorial, which honors high-ranking German officers and politicians who sacrificed everything in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

Throughout our time in Berlin, I kept thanking our troops that joined forces with the Allies to defeat the Axis (sadly, as I discovered at Checkpoint Charlie), it took Berlin even longer to recover with the ending of World War II to the birth of the Cold War.

Here are some photos of what I experienced in Berlin. And a heartfelt thank you to our veterans of all conflicts.