Resistance against National Socialism in Berlin-Schöneberg 1933 – 1945. Students discover the story(ies) in the vicinity of their school

A joint project of the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule and German Resistance Memorial Center.

What happened in Schöneberg during the National Socialist era? How did the people who once lived here behave? Were there people in the vicinity of the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule who fought against the dictatorship and Nazi crimes? Who were they? How did they resist? How is it remembered today?

 Students at the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule will be on a hunt for clues around their school over a period of several weeks. At historical sites they will deal with aspects of the National Socialist dictatorship.

The students will encounter the stories of people who came from different social milieus in Schöneberg and experienced the time of National Socialism in various ways. Among them are people who were subjected to persecution because they were political opponents of the National Socialists or, as Jews, did not fit into the racist world view of the regime. Some Schöneberger tried to resist the inhuman policies of the National Socialists.

Only a handful of people resisted, and they are at the heart of this project. Through exploring their biographies, the students will get to know different people who were active in the resistance in Schöneberg. They will discover the various forms of resistance and possible scope of action that existed for resisting the National Socialist dictatorship.

The historical exploration of the present and familiar urban space also makes it possible to talk about connections between the past and the present. Questions about the memory and significance of Nazi history for us today will be discussed and explored.

During the project, the students will develop a tour of the schools’ surroundings to places of resistance against National Socialism. In the end, they will organize this tour for classmates, parents or teachers. In addition, they will create a map for the tour, which can also be used later at the school.

The project will be led by Christian Discher PhD and Marén Letze as well as the staff of the German Resistance Memorial Center. It runs from the beginning of October to the beginning of December 2018 and takes place in school, in the vicinity of the school and at external learning locations, such as the German Resistance Memorial Center.

Discussion with contemporary witnesses Petra and Franz Michalski

Bild von Petra und Franz Michalski

Through the initiative of the AG Begabungsförderung, Mrs. Michalski and Mr. Michalski were invited as contemporary witnesses to the elementary level of the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule on November 5, 2018. The 80 seats in the auditorium quickly filled up with pupils from the elementary and secondary school levels who had come accompanied by their teachers, parents and teachers.

It became quiet and the seven-year-old Joona B. opened the event with the words: “We welcome Petra and Franz Michalski. They are the grandparents of the boy who was insulted and attacked for months because of his Jewish faith at the secondary level of our school.”He then reported on how the pupils had dealt with the subject of anti-Semitism and the role of the “silent heroes” up to now.

The next ninety minutes were about the silent heroes and their actions. Mrs. Michalski stood up and began to talk about her husband’s memories from the National Socialist era. Franz Michalski, who was the son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, documented them in his work: “When the Gestapo rang the front doorbell: A family in a mixed marriage and those who helped them [1].”

Through the powerful depictions and the pictures hanging on boards in the auditorium, on which the family members, relevant places and individual heroes of their survival story were depicted, Petra and Franz Michalski made it clear to the students to what extent anti-Jewish policies and the associated restrictions imposed on Jews in the population continued to intensify and to what extent the deeply shocking experiences from that period continue to have an impact on those affected to this very day.

The eyewitness accounts of the Michalski family not only served to remind us of the crimes that led to the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews under National Socialism, they also served to remind us of the increasing violence and discrimination against Jews in Europe, which are linked to the rise of anti-Semitic attitudes.

At the end of the event Franz Michalski read the names of his silent heroes: Alfons Thienelt, the policeman; Erna Scharf; Gerda Mez; Marquis de Respaldizza; the hoteliers, Horst Schneider and Mr. Hetschel. Franz Michalski and his closest family members owe their lives to these people. In Yad Vashem they were honored as “righteous among the nations”: Gerda Mez, Erna Raack and their parents Ida and Ernst Scharf. Unfortunately, the other helpers could no longer be located at the time of the tribute.

“We, Petra and Franz Michalski, would like to stress that even in the worst times it was possible to help people in need if you had courage, wisdom and charity. We hope that today’s youth will recognize and observe the signs of the times and will promptly protest against any form of injustice.”

We feel greatly honored and grateful that Mrs. Michalski and Mr. Michalski will speak again on January 21, 2019 as contemporary witnesses for the students of the Friedenau Gemeinschaftsschule.

Christian Discher PhD

[1]Edited by Barbara Schieb: METROPOL Publications of the Silent Heroes Memorial, Volume 3.

Above the clouds – Students from the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule are guests for the second time at the Kinder-Uni on September 20, 2018.

Under the motto “Above the Clouds”, the Brandenburg University of Applied Science (TH Brandenburg) opened its doors again this year on September 20, 2018 and invited students to take part in an experimental lecture.

Accompanied by their parents and with the active support of our educator Janina, 22 children from the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule made their way to Brandenburg an der Havel, Magdeburger Straße 50, in the early morning with plenty of sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. The university students directly supported the course of the event after our arrival at 8:30 a.m. with a program organized especially for the children. They were also available to us during the day as a contact person and escorted the children to the workshops.

All seats in the lecture hall were occupied when Ms. Steinicke promptly asked the attendees to congratulate a student who had their birthday by singing the song “Happy Birthday” at 9:00. The room became quiet once more and the president of TH Brandenburg, Professor Wieneke-Toutaoui, appeared in front of the audience.

In addition to the thematic introduction, Professor Wieneke-Toutaoui explained to the children how important it is to question facts, to “not believe everything that is said” and encouraged them to check out various books from libraries. The ability to critically question circumstances and to understand learning as a process of constant reflection or as a task of one’s own positions is vital for scientific work.

With his introductory lecture on the history of flying, Dr. Sturm was not the only one who captivated the audience. The audience was also amazed when Professor Flassig and the scientific staff let the homemade hot-air balloon float through the hall and nitrogen fogged the screen on which our camera child projected the event.

In the workshops that followed, our children had the opportunity to dive into virtual worlds in three different scenarios with different tasks, to discuss the basics of programming games and to get to know the structure of the hardware.

After a guided tour through the machine hall, a video sequence explained to the students how the fuel cell works. Afterwards, those interested in building fuel cell cars developed their own ideas for maintaining the cars’ drive using the materials provided, such as installing a second fuel cell or generating energy using solar cells. In an additional workshop, another group of our students were able to demonstrate their basic knowledge on models in order to boost their performance.

This is not the first time that we have been given the opportunity to visit the Kinder-Uni of the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences. We were already on site as guests in September 2017 and enjoyed an extensive offer. However, it is not only the attractive campus and high-quality program that make us happy to return to TH Brandenburg. The individual and friendly support in connection with the organization of this event is by no means a given nowadays.

Visiting extracurricular learning venues and taking part in scientifically guided workshops extends beyond familiar forms of standard teaching. Due to the link between theory and practice, the curricular connection and not only within the framework of talent promotion, offers an opportunity to make it clear to children that knowledge and skills acquired at school are of considerable importance to our society.  The Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule would like to thank the Brandenburg University of Applied Scienes for this eventful and exciting program; we are looking forward to further visits in the future. My special thanks go out to Janina and the parents who accompanied us for their support.


Dr. Christian Discher

Urban Farming – June 2018 A Peek into the Bee Colony

After the theoretical examination of the nature of the bee as part of the AG Begabungsförderung, the students at the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule gained insights into the inner workings of an example of a superorganism: a bee colony. The student’s parents and grandparents came along to this event, which took place in the Berlin neighborhood Pankow on June 12, 2018, a lovely day with pleasant temperatures. Those present were able to get up close and personal to examine the differences between the three types of bees (workers, drones and queen) as well as observe various developmental stages of the breeding cells of the workers and drones and the differences between harvest-ripe (capped) and unripe honey. While enjoying freshly harvested honey in the garden, thanks to the active support of my husband, we gave the children practical insights into the work of the hobby beekeeper, discussed the interdependence between humans and bees and addressed questions such as the threat and control of varoa mites, among others.

Memories of the Sinti and Roma resistance against National Socialism on May 16, 1944

In honor of the 74th anniversary of the Sinti and Roma resistance in the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau on May 16, 1944, a commemoration ceremony took place at the German Resistance Memorial Center on Stauffenbergstraße 13-14 in 10785 Berlin.

In their introductory speeches, the deputy director of the German Resistance Memorial Center, Christine Müller-Botsch PhD , and a project staff member of the German Sinti and Roma Cultural Center, Tobias von Borcke, pointed out that so far there has been too little focus placed on the resistance of Sinti and Roma in the current educational curriculum regarding National Socialism. When Petra Rosenberg, the daughter of Otto Rosenberg and chairwoman of the regional association of German Sinti and Roma Berlin-Brandenburg appeared, the audience in Hall 2 A fell silent. Petra Rosenberg talked about her father Otto Rosenberg, who was the only one of 11 brothers and sisters to survive the Sinti and Roma genocide. She was only able to talk about this horror 50 years after the event to the guests, who were made up of Holocaust survivors, members of the association as well as students of the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule.

Her father shared his memories in the contemporary witness document “Das Brennglas”, which was published in 1998. Petra Rosenberg repeatedly described the atrocities he had to endure and spoke about the crimes against humanity that were committed. After the reading, the pupils of the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule were taken through the memorial by the lecturer and research assistant, Ms. Sieg. They were encouraged to reflect on the history of National Socialism so that they could deepen their knowledge in the following workshop, which introduced educational materials on the Sinti and Roma resistance against National Socialism, some of which remains unpublished.

At the memorial, in addition to the work of Otto Rosenberg, they also learned about the life of boxer Johann Trollmann, who used his last boxing match as a political statement, entering the ring with “lightened hair and white-powdered skin” to publicly denounce Nazi racial politics. Extracts from the biography of Walter Stanoski Winter, who was involved with his brother in planning and staging the Sinti and Roma uprising on May 16, 1944, were also discussed.

In keeping with the motto of equal participation, the students were able to pose their questions to the lecturer as well as make critical comments. For example, one criticism they had was that most of the materials did not include women’s biographies. The lecturer said this still needed to be done in the documents, to which little research has been devoted so far. The timely publication of educational materials on the Sinti and Roma resistance under National Socialism is a very valuable and long overdue contribution aimed at raising awareness of the resistance of this persecuted group.

Christian Discher PhD