I am so sorry to have been absent for the past few weeks, things have gotten crazy around here and I’ve been pretty busy. When I last wrote, I said that I would be going on my Long Study Tour with my core course in the end of October. My class focuses on Modern European History so we headed to Warsaw and Berlin.
We all met at the Copenhagen Airport bright and early at 6 am. We took the quick flight to Warsaw and hit the ground running with a walking tour around the city. We were able to see a lot of the Old Town and areas that were particularly relevant during Nazi occupation. After our tour we headed to the POLIN Museum which is the museum of the history of Polish Jews. We had a wonderful tour guide who shared with us the history of Jews in Poland hundreds of years before the Second World War. It was extremely eye-opening to learn about the history of Jews in this region before the Holocaust.
The next day we went to Treblinka, the extermination camp that killed an estimated 900,000 Polish Jews. It’s hard to put into words what it was like to be there. Our guide showed us where and how Jews were brought into the camp. Upon entering, most only had a few hours left. We had a debrief afterwards to discuss what going to the camp was like and how our class’s focus of competing narratives plays into the narratives we hear today.
On our final day we were able to meet with a PhD candidate who teaches law and history at the University of Warsaw. He gave us some insight on the current political situation in Poland and how this government has been shifting the narrative surrounding Polish involvement with the Holocaust. In the afternoon we met with a Polish journalist, reporter, and political activist who helped us further understand Poland today.
We woke up in Berlin the next morning and had another walking tour of the city. We were able to see parts of the wall, the Brandenburg Gate, and other sites throughout the city. For lunch, we ate on top of the Reichstag building. There were incredible views of the city and the meal was amazing. After lunch we had a little free time so my friend and I raced over to see the East Side Gallery. We then headed back to meet up with our group for a canal tour at sunset.
The following day we started off by going to the Jewish Museum. It was so interesting and one of the most well thought out museums I’d ever been to. Afterwards, we broke into small groups to go to different museums. My group went to the Topography of Terror which is free to visit and is situated at the same spot as the former SS and Gestapo headquarters. I also went to the DDR Museum which highlighted what life was like in East Germany after the war. It was interesting to see but very overcrowded.
On our final day we made our way to the villa where the Wannsee Conference took place. The Wannsee Conference established the plan for the mass extermination of Jews across Europe. We were all surprised to see that the villa was in a residential neighborhood situated on a lake. There was such a juxtaposition between what was planned inside and the surrounding area. After that we went to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. The camp was an all male camp and housed Jews, Soviet POWs, homosexuals, and antisocials. Again, it’s hard to put into words what it was like being there.
That concludes my Long Study Tour. It was a whirlwind of emotion and activity. It was so cool to be able to see the sites and places that I’ve learned so much about in history classes. To learn about the current political climates in both Poland and Germany was also very interesting. After heading back to Copenhagen we are more than half way through my time abroad which is crazy! But, I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks here.