Posted by: Clare Solomon | March 2, 2011

Berlin, Paris & Tunisia: Taking ULU to Youlou!

The gates to Sachsenhausen concentration camp

ULU, once again, has lived up to its promises. We’ve reached out to many groups that we haven’t for many years. International solidarity is of great importance to us; we need to share experiences, learn from each other and, most importantly, make connections between what is happening here in the UK and on the wider global stage.

Our first trip took a delegation of students from ULU’s colleges; UCL, RVC, SOAS, Queen Mary and a ULU staff member to Berlin on an educational and memorial trip. We visited a concentration camp, museums and memorials for International Holocaust Memorial Day.

Our first stop was to the Holocaust Memorial near Potsdam and the Brandenburg Gate. As we struggled to light candles in the wind to remember the millions of people who perished at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust, we were reminded of the fragility of life. One small gust of wind extinguished the candles: so vivid was this image we left them unlit to signify the millions of extinguished lives.

On the day of Holocaust Memorial Day, Jan 27th thousands of visitors lay wreaths at Sachsenhausen Concentration camp

UCL student

“this is a very valuable trip to witness what has happened in human history. The Jews has undergone events that are beyond our imagination. Sometimes, I would be even shocked how creative these people can be when it comes to torturing the Jews. This was definitely a very meaningful trip to attend to remember those unfortunate who died in the Second World War. I will definitely recommend this trip for others next year”

 

RVC student

ULU students at the site of the infamous Book Burning by Nazi's at Humboldt University

This trip caught my eye and I even sacrificed being behind on coursework to go…The concentration camp was disturbing, although already being aware of the atrocities committed. The Jewish museum was excellent and highlighted the fact that before Hitler decided to simply kill people in masses, there was a slow degeneration and desensitization of a society and how simple things like sneering on the street, signs up saying Jews can’t go or sit here, lead to such a disgusting thing as mass murder and torture. One should not only focus on the camps but realize the many years of suffering leading up to this.

Our trip encompassed a number of places and itinerary items including a day at the Jewish Museum, (being late for) a Shabbat service at the Old Synagogue and a People’s History Walking Tour of Berlin where we learnt about the struggles of the masses and not just stories of the elite. We visited Bertolt Brecht’s theatre and finished the day at the wonderful replica East London Restaurant. The commodification of communism was deliciously (although the food was not) ironic.

If re-elected to ULU President I will definitely offer this trip again (for the third time)

To reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust is a most important exercise. At times of so much suffering in the world we must learn that we must say Never Again.

Our second trip took us to Paris. Over Valentines weekend (!) fifty ULU students went to the European Universities in Struggle conference at which we put forward the case for resisting the cuts and won a motion to call for an International Day of Action to coincide with the TUC Demo against Cuts on March 26th. We also initiated a similar conference in London in the summer. Perhaps I’m biased but UK students demonstrated great strength and experience.

I also visited ULIP-University of London Institute of Paris. With only 200 students the college is, quite unusually, home to one of our Student Trustees. Their campus is in the British Council building and overlooks the Eifel Tower.  To see a ULU anti-cuts banner hanging from this amazing monument would be fantastic: if Italian students can occupy the Leaning Tower of Pisa, ULIP can take the Paris Tower! ULIP have also planned an anti-cuts protest for March 26th so we look forward to seeing their photos.

And, finally, 30,000 young people and students in Tunisia this weekend demonstrated in Tunis demanding ‘do not marginalise the youth’. They re-occupied Government Square and as news of Libya’s brutal dictator Gaddafi’s actions reached the camp students vowed to continue the campaign. With the Military backing the youth (see my facebook for more amazing photos and videos) I am hopeful that the revolutionary process continues. They sent messages of solidarity to London students and encourage us to stand up to our own injustices.

This year ULU has been placed on the map both locally and globally. By continuing to reach the parts that other Unions have not we have proved that ULU is more than just a gym…

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