After 5 amazing, albeit exhausting, weeks we return to Boston. We have seen, learned, felt, and experienced so much during those weeks and we thank our students for participating in this journey. You were wonderful and have turned this into an unforgettable study abroad.
Natalie and Veronica
“It’s complicated”….that is what you will hear often when speaking to people in Poland about the Holocaust and WWII. At first we are taken aback by this statement, convinced that, actually, it isn’t complicated at all. But after visits to Auschwitz, labor camps and prisons, the former Jewish Ghettos in Warsaw and Krakow, Schindler’s factory but also discussions with the Chief Rabbi of Poland, a diplomat at the US Embassy in Warsaw, and the Jewish Youth Organization over a Sabbath Dinner, we change our mind: Yes, it is indeed complicated.
Memorializing the former Jewish Ghetto in Krakow, at the Umschlagplatz (the place where Jews were selected to be deported to concentration camps)
Unfortunately, there are many dark spots in Berlin’s history, but we were confronted with an uncomfortable one pretty early one: Villa Wannsee – the place where the ‘Final Solution’ was formalized.
Finally. Berlin. Here, our Dialogue has been taking some new twists and turns. How do Germans commemorate the Holocaust today? And how has the Berlin Wall affected that memory? We are perplexed by the richness of this creative, vibrant, and dynamic city.
Nuremberg was a curiously intense place for our group.
It is of course an absolutely charming city, to which senior Germans flock in large numbers to adore unique architecture, sausages and ginger bread, and the famous christmas market.
But Nuremberg is also home to the former Nazi Rally Grounds, onto which thousands of Nazis descendent for their annual Party rally and which bears witness to the unimaginable scale of the influence of national socialism at the time.
But then it gets more complicated. We struggled with the fact that some of these sites were used for entertainment purposes, for businesses and profit.
The former marching grounds are now used as tracks for an annual car race.
Our other key visit – and one of our most informative visits to date – was to the Justizpalast, which houses the former Nuremberg Trial court room. Our guide – a human rights activist – discussed with us in much detail the significance (and limits) of the Nuremberg Trials.
We visited the Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte (Institute for Contemporary History) yesterday. The Institute holds a significant amount of documents and archival material related to the Holocaust. We were able to browse some of these documents ourselves and, most importantly, think through some questions related to the role of the archive in remembering/forgetting the Holocaust.
Bavaria is one of the most astonishingly beautiful places. See for yourself:
We are taking the “Studying off-campus” mantra very seriously on our Dialogue. Our time in Munich has seen many, often creative, alternatives to the classroom:
Using one of Munich’s many Biergartens
At the Hofbraeuhaus, where Hitler announced his program for the NSDAP
At the Political Science Department of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich with Prof. Lars Colschen
Today, the group began its first “substantive” so to speak part of the Dialogue. The first couple of days in Munich consisted of getting to know the city. This included a city tour as well as a boat tour of a nearby lake.
This morning we began to get our feet wet re: Munich’s NS (Nazi) period. The day began with a three-hour tour of the city’s NS past, including the Hoffbrau House (where the infamous Beer Putsch was staged), administrative buildings used by the Nazis, and apartments where Hitler stayed throughout his time in Munich – to name a few points of interest. After a break for lunch, we had a guided tour of the Jewish Museum (opened in 2006) which included the permanent and temporary exhibits. Here, we learned about Munich’s Jewish past as well as some information about Judaism vis-a-vis Jewish rituals.
We are gearing up for our first concentration-camp visit tomorrow: Dachau. This morning we boarded a train into the city centre, and its final destination was Dachau. I got this great shot of some of the students boarding the train (reflected in its windows).