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Reflections of pre-camp at the European Maccabi Games in Berlin

November 24, 2016 23:06

It's very hard to put the last 48 hours into context. The first ever pre-camp at the European Maccabi Games has given everyone involved plenty of food for thought. Many questions have been asked, with one recurring theme - how, why and most importantly, never again.

No sooner had we set off the plane in Berlin than we were heading to the Olympic Park. You can almost touch the history of a place that was rocking with controversy in 1936 when the great Jess Owens wrote his place in the history books, again all the odds.

It was a first visit to the city for myself and a significant number of the Team Maccabi GB delegation who were clearly taken aback by tales of the atrocities in the trips to follow.

We squeezed into the lift to climb the Bell Tower before stepping out hundreds of feet into the air for a period of reflection. The Park will be the epicentre of the 14th EMG and will be awash with colour when the sports programmes commence on Tuesday.

We then moved on for a whistlestop tour of the Jewish quarter. Our first stop was the Jewish school established by Moses Mendelsohn, which today has 60 per cent of Jewish students.

A short stroll away was Bebelplatz. As we gathered around to hear our guide, the locals investigated as to who we were and what we were doing in our Union Flag Magen David polo shirts.

Then it was back to the team hotel for a Team Maccabi GB/USA gala dinner. British Ambassador Sir Simon McDonald thanked guests for being in Berlin and spoke about the strong relationship between Germany and Israel.

Monday was a day I will never forget as we visited Grunewald Platform 17 for an incredibly moving and poignant memorial service. We heard tales of Berlin Jews who had their lives ripped apart and ultimately destroyed by the Nazi regime.

It was incredibly eerie as trains passed by behind us, and all I could picture was families being torn away from their loved ones, paying for a one-way ticket to hell.

Lunch was taken in the form of a picnic at Tier Garten followed by the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe. We went on to the Jewish Monument, in the shadow of Hitler’s office. Five minutes away from the group was not enough to soak it all up and reflect considering this was my first visit, but most people came away from it visibly moved.

Pre-camp finished where else but the Brandenburg Gates. Now the athletes will conclude their preparations at training sessions and final team briefings but they go into the EMG having learnt valuable lessons about being discriminated against and given the opportunity to express themselves, asking questions and getting answers. An opportunity our fallen brothers and sisters never had.

November 24, 2016 23:06

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