Three eras of German history
24th February 2015

‘Du bist verrückt mein Kind, du mußt nach Berlin.’- You are crazy, my child. You must go to Berlin.’

Franz von Suppe (1800s)


For thirty seven years, the Fifth Form Oundle School History trip to Berlin has been packed with intriguing history, extraordinary experiences and a great deal of fun and humour. This year was certainly no exception. 

Pupil Olly Parker (16) commented, “We were lucky enough to visit sights from three different eras of German history; pre 20th century, Weimar and Nazi Germany and the Cold War. 

We learnt much about Fredrick the Great and the Hohenzollern family of Brandenburg-Prussia. We went up the impressive victory column marking Bismarck’s three great victories over the Danes, French and Austrians, and had a great view of the surrounding Tiergarten and up the 17th of June Street to the Brandenburg Gate.”

In East Berlin, the eighty pupils saw the two churches in Gendarmenmarkt; one built for German nationals and the other for foreigners to try to draw them into the country. Possibly one of the most important squares in Berlin is Bebelplatz, which has the Humboldt University with famous alumni such as Karl Marx, Albert Einstein and the Brothers Grimm, as well as the copper roofed St Hedwig’s Cathedral and the Berlin Opera House. It was the site of the 1933 burning of books by the Nazi Party, and to mark this each year the students have a book fair.

Olly added, “The Zeughaus Museum was where the early history came to life for me, with a huge exhibition documenting German history.”

The pupils visited the glass dome of the Reichstag built by the British architect Norman Foster to display the openness of the new German Parliament. Nearby they also saw the Jewish memorial positioned on top of Hitler’s bunker which brought feelings of unease and sorrowfulness. The Topography of Terror is a modern museum built on what used to be the SS headquarters displaying the stories of horror under the Nazi regime. The building is alongside the Luftwaffe headquarters, which ironically, is the only Reich building not to be bombed by the RAF.

Olly commented, “We spent a morning south west of Berlin visiting Wannesse where the Final Solution became a reality. It was spine tingling to visit the place responsible for such a horrific act.

The guided tour of the Olympic stadium, the place of Jesse Owens’ famous 1936 heroics in front of Hitler and, more recently, where the French football star Zidane committed his notorious head butt in the 2006 World Cup final, was a real highlight.”

From 1945 to 1989, Berlin was the centrepiece of the West versus East stand-off and no place more so than Checkpoint Charlie, where pupils were told the stories of the East Berliners’ escape attempts, how tanks stood off barrel to barrel and long and tiresome border crossings.

Pupils also visited Cecilienhof Palace, the site of the Potsdam Conference at which Berlin and Germany were divided up between Churchill, Stalin and Truman. They had two very moving and disturbing trips to Hohenschonhausen Prison and Sachsenhausen concentration camp and heard how the Stasi would try to mentally break down prisoners. They learnt about Jimmy James and his courageous escape attempts from Sachsenhausen in WW2, before it was liberated and then used by the Russians as their concentration camp until 1952.  

Olly concluded, “The history was not the only plus of the trip. We had delicious meals every night and were able to visit the large Christmas Markets to enjoy the curry wurst on offer and do some last minute Christmas shopping. But above all, making the trip so special, were the Oundle History department staff who not only got us all into the right places for the right time, but also made the trip so engaging and stimulating.”


Background Information on Oundle School

Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.


The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.


At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015. 


There are currently 1110 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11. 

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