Berlin, a city oozing with history and this year’s Euroleague Final 4

May 23, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

There’s no question that Berlin has a rich and rough history all rolled up into one. On one hand there’s so much beauty, culture, history that can be found in every single nook and cranny in the city. On the other, there is still the remains of the Holocaust, World War II as well as the deep connection to communism from the wall and other famous landmarks throughout the town.

I’m in Berlin for the Euroleague Final Four which will unbelievably be my first such tournament as I made arrangements way back in August of 2023 to attend after the location and date was announced. Plenty has gone on since August with the war with Hamas beginning on October 7th when we were brutally attacked as a people and a nation by the Gaza terrorists and there’s no question that life will never be the same.

However, life does have to go on.

Before even booking the trip to Germany I had some fear trepidation to do so because of the history outlined above but after a brief venture to Dresden when I was at the 2022 Eurobasket in Prague I understood that we should all witness history and the past in order to make for a better future. This can be no truer even now as we continue to battle Hamas as they hold well over 100 innocent hostages In barbaric conditions.

My first day in Berlin was all dedicated to the past and history, although I did have to take a couple of side stops to enjoy the kosher delicacies and of course head to a number of sports stores.

Upon landing and checking into the hotel which is located less than a 5 minute walk from the site of the Final 4 the Uber Arena it was off to perhaps one of the historical locations that I had heard so much about and one that had plenty of sports and Jewish content, the Olympic Stadium. Located on the outskirts of the city it took close to 45 minutes to travel to the site of the 1936 Games where Jesse Owens won gold in front of the Nazi regime and Adolph Hitler.

As you approach the facility it’s clear that there has been a number of renovations since Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, Jewish American runners who were pulled from competing due to the American delegation’s fear of Hitler and as a way to appease him. But as you walk around the enormous stadium, which will host the DFB Final this weekend all of a sudden to see the two huge towers with the Olympic rings being held between.

Standing just outside of the stadium, looking up at the unity that the 5 rings are supposed to signify I couldn’t help but to think back to the film and pictures I had seen of the stadium during the Hitler Games. The fans with their outstretched arms, pledging allegiance to their Fuhrer, the shame that he had felt with Jesse Owens captured four gold medals to his dismay.

But also to the past, present and future effects that were occurring at that moment in time to the Jewish people as a whole.

After pondering for quite some time it was back to the train and onto the next stop, the Brandenburg Gate.

Built in the late 1700’s, the gate was to become one of the landmarks so well know to the world and would eventually separate the east and west.

However, looking at the ominous gate I could not get the thought of the Nazi flags hanging down in between each column during the late 1930’s which would eventually become the separation between the East and West during the Cold War. However, I also recalled how that now, every Hanukkah a huge Chanukiah is placed right at the gate and lit on each of the 8 nights.

The light conquered the darkness of the Nazi regime and is now unquestionably a place of freedom for all.

From the Brandenburg Gate, I took a short walk to the Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. As I arrived, the skies opened and rain began to descend as tears poured out of the heavens. This site is made up of huge blocks of concrete, 2711 in all laid up and down rows and on a slope. They look like rows of coffins and also has a historical area with names or over 3 million Jewish victims that were murdered by the Nazi regime.

What is even more interesting that this site itself, is that less than a 5 minute walk away is the location of Hitler’s Bunker where the Nazi leader ended his life.

The bunker is now just a nondescript parking lot surrounded by apartment complexes with just a German language sigh saying what had once been there. As the rain continued as a drizzle I thought back how such a so called mighty leader had to go underground and hide out as his Final Solution which murdered over 6 million Jews came to an end.

Yahya Sinwar the murderer Hamas terrorist apparently learnt well from Hitler about going underground as he continues to hunker down in one of the hundreds upon hundreds of tunnels that were discovered in the Gaza Strip. Hopefully he will meet the same end as Hitler did.

Continuing on down the street a massive shopping center was in sight, the Mall of Berlin with plenty of shops and of course sports stores that The Sports Rabbi perused and came away with a number of hats and jerseys.

From there a short hop, skip and a jump was the Potsdamer Platz where more and more shops of every size and shape could be found including the NBA Store as well as a high end Kosher Donut Shop. Bramimibal’s Vegan Donuts has six Kosher shops around the city and I made sure not to miss out of one of them where a sampling of the best of the best were available. From Boston Crème to Birthday Cake and Cinnamon Bun it was a delight to taste the Parve donuts.

However, I didn’t want to eat a too much because it was lost dinner time and a bus trip to Eivgi’s was in order for some schnitzel. The lunch diner was located in an area that is not one of the Jewish sections and caters to both Jews and non-Jews by the owner David.

After a quick bite to eat I crossed the street to yet another historical location the Schöneberg City Hall (Rathaus Schöneberg), the site of John F Kennedy’s speech “Ich bin ein Berliner”. The building proudly sports a plaque for this famous moment in world history in what is such a nondescript location.

Thinking about the famous words over and over in my head, I was thinking about the JFK famous speeches Record that my father had in the house and how many historical sayings the President of the United States d uttered over the time of his short life.

From there it was back to the hotel area and a short visit to the Euroleague Accreditation Center to collect my credentials which was followed by taking off my shoes and putting my feet up to relax after a throughly long but meaningful day.

Day two took place at the Uber Arena and the immediate area right by my hotel which began with a stop at the ANGT (Adidas Next Generation Tournament) which features eight Under 18 teams playing four games a day. The competition is loaded with future stars that may make their way to the NBA or other leagues around the world and is attuned by scouts a plenty checking out which diamonds in the rough they can encounter.

The first game of the day pitted Real Madrid with top prospects Hugo Gonzalez and Ismail Dianne against Milano and the pair didn’t disappoint as the former scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while the latter added 14 points and 10 boards to help Los Blancos take a 92-67 win.

From there it was over to the Euroleague Final 4 press conference (click here to read all about it) which was followed up by open practices for each of the teams as well as a chance to talk to some of the players.

The Sports Rabbi spoke to former Maccabi Tel Aviv Star Scottie Wilbekin who now plies his trade with Fenerbahce and is making his Final 4 debut (Click here to read the interview) as well as Luke Sikma who gave his thoughts on Israeli standouts Yovel Zoosman and Tamir Blatt (Click here to read the interview).

A long and thrilling day came to an end with my all time favorite drink, Cherry Coke.

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