We have reached our final day of this amazing 12 day throughout central Europe. The past 12 days have been so amazing to take such a great group of kids along with us as we learn more about the Holocaust. To end our trip, we scheduled one more tour that would also be a tough tour to go through for our students. We traveled 20 min from Munich to the town of Dachau, where we had a tour of the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis.
Dachau was the first concentration camp set up by the Nazi party for it political opponents in 1933. From there it expanded into many different sub camps and become a true place of terror and horror. Our group was lead by the wonderful Marcin, who has been working at the museum for 10 years and was excellent with our kids. The kids went through many different areas of the camp like the front gate, where we were greeted with the infamous sign "Arbeit Mach Frei" which translate "work makes free" or "work sets you free". Along the museum the kids saw so many different images, items, films that show more of the atrocities committed to Jews, Romas (gypsies), Jehovah Witnesses, homosexuals, and many more between the time of 1933-1945. Marcin took the kids through a college level history lesson as he provided the kids with so many stories of survivors that he has work with and given tours to. James Korenman and Erin Cooney both mentioned how much they enjoyed hearing Marcin talk about the history of Dachau and how interesting he made the tour. They were consistently in the front and seemed genuinely interested in what Marcin was saying. It was great to see students like that!
Another student who seemed very impacted by the trip to Dachau was Luke Fitzpatrick. Luke talked about his experience walking through Dachau and found it crazy how people could be capable of such evil toward other human beings. Luke also couldn't believe the living conditions that people had to live through while being imprisoned at Dachau. Our tour guide brought us through the barracks at different time stages of the camp. As the years went on, the worse living conditions got. That was one thing that really stood out to look and make a connection with.
This trip has been an amazing trip for all of us involved. It has been so special to bring kids to important cities during the Holocaust and to pay respects by visiting museums and major cites of it. I think this has truly opened the eyes of all of us to what humans are capable of and how we can take steps to prevent anything like this to happen.
To the parents of our students, thank you for all that you do in order to send your children on these trips. We have been incredibly lucky to have your child on this trip. They have all been wonderful to have on. We hope you all have a wonderful spring break!!
Mike, Caitlin, and John
Today we embarked on our final destination of the trip...Munich! We woke up nice and early and met in the lobby of the hotel at 7:45 to grab a bite before we left for the train station. We jumped on the 9:06 am train and made our way to Munich. The train to Munich was such a relief because it was only an hour and a half ride. This was a piece of cake for our group considering we have been used 5+ hour rides! As some of the kids took naps, listened to music, or played cards, the train ride seemed to be over just as it started. We walked out of the station of Munich, grabbed taxis and headed to our beautiful hotel. As we got to the hotel around 11:20 am, there was some down time for our group before we went off to our tour of Munich during the Third Reich.
Before the tour we grabbed lunch in the downtown area of the Marienplatz. The Marienplatz is an area of Munich in which there are many shops and old buildings. One of the more famous sights in the Marienplatz is the glockenspiel. Every so often, the glockenspiel goes off and plays percussion music with the different moving parts moving around. My explanation may not do it justice, but their is a picture below of it!! After lunch we headed off to meet our tour guide who was going to take us around the historic parts of Munich that are relevant with the rise of the Third Reich and the Nazi Party. As we met with our tour guide however, the tour company messed up our entire tour. Not only were they not organized, but they had us scheduled for the wrong tour. Instead of continuing with the tour, we decided to call a audible and do something a little different. With the busy schedule we have had and not too much free time for our students, we decided to send the kids off to explore the Marienplatz area we were in for some much needed down time. During this time, students shopped for souvenirs, ate from the local bakeries, bought clothes, and much more. The kids really enjoyed it because it was something they haven't had much of this trip. Given the content of this trip, free time is so important for the kids to decompress.
After much exploring of Munich on our own, it was time for dinner! Dinner tonight was a special occasion because we were celebrating a birthday on this trip....the 19th birthday of Justin Heinke!! Justin's family has roots tracing back to Germany so we had a special request for a place to go for dinner, the famous Hofbräuhaus. The Hofbrähaus is a very famous restaurant in Germany, that little did we know was one of the places that has connections to the early stages of the Nazi party as a meeting place. The restaurant was massive and beautiful. The meals were full authentic German cuisine as the group continued to eat their fair share of weiner schnitzel, sausages and pretzels. The dinner culminated with the singing of happy birthday for Justin!
Tomorrow we head off to Dachau, which was the first concentration camp used by the Nazi party. For more of our day in Munch, check out the "photos" section of the blog!
Today the kids had a busy morning as we loaded up on a bus at 9:00 AM and headed just over the border of Germany and Austria. Our destination was the Dokumentation Obersalzberg. This is a small little museum in Berchtesgaden, Germany thats main focus is Hitler and the Nazi Party. For a while, from the mid 1930s up until the 1945, Berchtesgaden served as an area where high ranking Nazi officials would go on vacation and use it as a getaway. Located on the mountain side, directly above the museum is Hitlers own villa known as the Eagle's Nest.
As we walked into the museum with out English audio guides, we were surround with so much history of Hitler and the Nazi Party. We saw different typed of things from paintings of Adolf Hitler, to knifes of the SS, and a whole lot of information on the political aims of the Nazi party and the leadership of the party as well. At the end of the tour, the group got to go into a Nazi bunker! That was easily the coolest part of the tour for all. Andrew Kokes and I talked about seeing the bunker, and he said "that it was so cool to see a bunker in real life. To be able to go in one and it belong to high ranking officials of the Nazi party."
After the tour of the museum, we got to go into a cute, little mountain side village of Berchtesgaden. Its old architecture and vibrant colors of the buildings was beautiful to see. The kids loved walking through the town and looking at all the beautiful sites the town had. We even got to experience a celebration for Fat Tuesday, where all the kids were dismissed early from school and have their faces painted and dress up in costumes. We also have the opportunity to see a celebration that goes on in the town for Fat Tuesday every seven years! Quite the timing we had! Lovisa Wisdom talked about her time in that village, "We stopped in this little town and got AMAZING pretzels and I got a sandwich burrito thing. I don’t know if it was because I was hungry but that pretzel was the best soft pretzel I’ve ever had. We also saw in that town, a dance that only happens every seven years. I was pretty cool and fun to see."
After our day trip, we got dropped off back in Old Town in Salzberg. From there we walked around and grabbed lunch at a very good Italian food place as the kids ate their fair share of pasta and pizza. After lunch, the group got to roam around Old Town for a little while longer to shop and look at the different things that Salzberg had to offer on Fat Tuesday. At the end of the night, we spent it more as a low-key evening as we grabbed dinner and went back to the hotel to get ready for out trip to Munich in the morning!!
For more from our trip to Salzberg, check out the "photos" section of the blog!!
Today was another long travel day as we left the beautiful city of Prague to head to Slazberg, Austria! Before our departure, the group breakfast at the hotel and left to the train station to catch our 10:16 AM train to Linz, Austria. After the 4 hour train to Linz, we had to jump on a connecting train that was destined for Salzberg. From Linz it took us about an hour and a half to finally reach our destination.
Once we arrived at our hotel and dropped off our bags and left for dinner in the Old Town district of Salzberg. From there we walked by beautiful buildings, a cool shopping area, and so many restaurants. We grabbed dinner at the Maredo Steakhouse where the group ate their fill of meat and potatoes. After walking around the city for a few hours, we learned some interesting facts about Salzberg. The biggest one was that Salzberg is the birthplace of Mozart.. the kids found that to be very cool!! After dinner and some free time to roam around, we went back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
With a long day of travel behind, the rest of the night was focused on relaxing as we head to Berchtesgraden, Germany to look at the Dokumentation Center Obersalzberg which is in the Alps located by Hitler's getaway house called the Eagles Nest!
For more photos of Salzberg, go to the "photos" section!
Today was certainly a day the kids were looking forward to because there was a lot of downtime to explore Prague! To start the day off, we had breakfast at the hotel which was filled with omelettes, fried eggs, fresh fruit, coffee, and juice. After breakfast we went out on a tour of the Jewish Quarter of Prague. The tour guide brought us all over Prague and thought us so much about the history of Jews in Prague. We went through 3 different synagogues, a Jewish cemetery, and a place dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust that were from Czechoslovakia. It was amazing to see the architecture of the synagogues and how beautiful the inside was. They also had so many items from the Holocaust that were on display in two of the synagogues. To end our walking tour, we visited the oldest synagogue in Prague that is still used today! When talking with Travis Zuckerman, he mentioned to us that it was one of his favorite tours yet and was awesome to see how beautiful some of the buildings are in Prague. Henry Rogers also echoed similar pleasures with the trip. his favorite part of the tour was going through Old Town Square.
After the tour it was time for the kids to have some much needed free time! Our trip has been so structured with tours and travel, that the kids deserved some time to go around the part of Prague we were in. They all dispersed in groups of three or more and shopped around the square for over an hour. Given our topic of this winterim and the travel, we understand how tough it can be on some of the kids. Thats why we saw this as the perfect opportunity to give them some down time in the beautiful city of Prague. As we all made our way back to the hotel, we had some time to nap or some kids even made their way down to the hot tub area of the hotel.
At night, we were off to V Zátiší were we ate a delicious meal either chicken, raviolis, or veal. Veal has been a very popular choice while on this trip! After dinner we stopped for gelato and the kids were off again to roam around the square.
We have more traveling left as we head to Slazberg, Austria in the morning! Check out the "photos" section for more from our trip to Prague!!
After our visit to Auschwitz yesterday, we shifted our focus to the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic! We started the day with getting some fresh donuts from a bakery in Krakow and bussed our way to the train station. From the train station, we started our 6+ hour journey to Prague. The train was filled with the kids making pull out beds out of the train seats and napping, watching movies, playing cards, or engaged in good conversation. We even had lunch on the train of chicken schnitzel or sausages, all of which was made form scratch on the train! From the train we finally arrived to the beautiful Hotel Paris! It is a gorgeous hotel near Old Town square.
From the hotel we went right off to dinner at Agave, which is a very nice Mexican food restaurant. The kids were very happy with the endless amounts of chips and guacamole. From dinner, we were off exploring Prague at night. The kids were allowed some time to explore the Old Town square. From there we got ice cream and gelato to cap off the night as the kids went back to the hotel to rest up for tomorrow, as we tour the historic Jewish Quarter of Prague!
For more photos of day 1 in Prague, check out the "photos" section of the website!
Today was one of the most emotionally challenging days that we will have on this trip as we headed to the infamous concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. At 8:00am we met in the lobby and jumped on a bus to head to Oświęcim, which is an hour and a half away from Krakow. On the ride over, our bus drive put on an educational film on the history of Auschwitz and the different types of things that would go on in the camps. As we pulled up to the camp, the weather shifted from sunny and somewhat warm to foggy, cloudy and cold. Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the most famous extermination camps in Nazi Germany and Nazi occupied countries. It is a place in which over 1 million Jews, Poles, Romas (gypsies), and mentally disabled were sent to be killed in the gas chambers. Some of the things that the group saw were the barracks used to house the prisoners of Auschwitz and Birkenau, crematoriums of the camps, and so much more.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was a lot bigger than I think any of us expected. The Birkenau side of the camp stretched out almost as far as the eye can see, as the distant parts of the camp seemed to disappear in the fog. Annabelle Kinstler and Justin Heinke reflected on their experiences at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Annabelle Kinstler wrote, “The ride was about two hours and there was a video playing about the history of the Holocaust. Once we got there we waited for our tour guide and the first building we went to showed the living conditions of the prisoners which was really sad and awful because I couldn’t imagine living in small rooms like that with dozens and even hundreds of other people. We then saw the gas chambers and cremation area. I thought it was cool how they left all the buildings and some of the interior the same because it felt a lot more real. We then got back on the bus and went to Birkenau. It was huge and went on for what seemed like miles. It was cool to see the rubble and inside one of the places where over six hundred women stayed. It was all really sad but super interesting and kind of a one in a lifetime experience.”
Justin Heinke reflected on the experience as well, “We made the one hour journey to visit Auschwitz and I honestly wasn't prepared for what I was going to see. When we arrived, we walked through the main gates of the camp I had only seen pictures of it but seeing it in real life was more than enough to put into perspective of how demoralizing it must have been to see being brought into the camp. As our tour guide brought us through the barracks that housed the Jewish prisoners and one of the exhibits in the barracks displayed over 2 tons of hair from women who arrived to Auschwitz that had been cut off before they were sent to be cremated. And as we were ending our tour at Auschwitz 1 we were brought to look at the gas chamber that was used along with the crematorium that accompanied it. After that tour we got in our minivan that brought us there to go over to Birkenau or Auschwitz 2 to see the main death camp with the blown up remains of the gas chambers and crematorium.”
Today was yet another early day for everyone as we traveled two hours south of Warsaw to Krakow. As we woke up, the group grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel in Warsaw and went over to the train station for a two and a half hour train ride to the historic city of Krakow. When we arrived to Krakow, we went over to the hotel to check in and drop our luggage off and went to grab lunch for our hungry group. We stopped at a delicious burger place right up the street from our hotel and the kids were very pleased with their burgers! After a quick lunch, we headed to our only tour on the day to the Oskar Schindler Factory Museum.
The museum was quite the experience. It had a lot of information about the Nazi occupation of Poland and had a lot of items from that time period, like Nazi Third Reich flags, weapons used by the German army and the Polish resistance groups, letters, and so much more. With all of the amazing things in the museum, the central theme revolved around Oskar Schindler, who was a wealthy industrialist in Nazi Germany and was a very prominent member of the Nazi party because of his wealth. While using Jews as labor in his enamel factory, he learned more about the atrocities being committed against Jews and ultimately saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. One emotionally moving section of the museum was in Schindler's office where they had a glass enclosed area with pots, pans, and cups created in the factory. Inside of that area where the names of all the people that Schindler had saved. It was very powerful. Sean MacDonald wrote about what he saw during the trip to the museum, "After we headed to Schindler's factory and saw a lot of things they used, such as the machines and the name drawing wheel they picked people's names out of to see who got sent to the factory. We also got to see old letters, clothes and homes of the Jewish people at that time period. The museum also had a lot of items from the German side of the Nazi occupation of Poland. We got to see some of the supplies and uniforms of the Third Reich such as guns, ammo, and flags. Something that was fascinating to me is the things behind glass was actually held or used by people back then and to see how they are still preserved. One exhibit had to be a certain temperature so that the artifacts wouldn't be ruined. I really enjoyed today because in my history class before coming here and we watched the movie Schindler's List and got to see what life was like at the factory back then. So it was cool to see how and what it looks like now."
After the museum, we walked around that area of Krakow for a bit then rode on golf carts back to the hotel, where we had some down time before dinner. After some time to nap or watch tv, we marched deeper into Krakow where we had dinner at Trattoria La Campana. The restaurant was beautiful and the dinner was delicious as the group had a mix of veal, beef with risotto or the duck. By the time we had finished desert, it looked like we were all in food comas. The restaurant however decided to surprise us with another treat. In Poland, the last Thursday before lent is known as "Fat Thursday" which is also "Donut Day". This is as a last ditch effort for Polish people to indulge in sugary foods before lent. The restaurant brought out free donuts and what looked to be "churro bites", as described by our waiter. It was very cool to see this aspect of Polish culture being taught to our group!! Check out the "Photos" section for more from our first day in Krakow!!
Tomorrow is one of the most important days of the trip as we make a day trip to Auschwitz, which was one of the most famous concentration camps during Nazi German occupation. It will be an emotionally charged day for sure.
Our last day in Warsaw was busy yet again! To start off the day, we had a a great breakfast at our hotel. The hotel offered us an array of potatoes, eggs, omelettes, croissants, fruit, and so many more options! We fueled up and headed to the start of our bike tour of Warsaw. At 10:00, we met with our tour guide Gavel and saddled up on our bikes, which was our mode of transportation through Warsaw. Gavel took us back in time and showed many sites with historical significance through the history of Jews in Poland. We went through the famous Muranów District, which was the center of the Warsaw Ghetto back in 1940. We also went outside of the Museum of History of Polish Jews where we saw the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto, where Gavel taught our kids about Mordecai Anielewicz and how he lead rebellions against the Nazi's in the ghetto. Another site we went to along our tour was an section of the original Ghetto Wall. Matt Brewer reflected on the parts of the tour that stuck with him, "The tour lasted 3 hours and was essentially a tour of the Warsaw ghetto. On the tour we saw and recreation of the largest palace in Warsaw. We also saw where an entrance to the ghetto was as well as the last remaining section of the wall, still equipped with its barbed wire. We saw the 4 buildings that survived to the end of the war.
After the bike tour, we headed for some delicious Polish cuisine.......pierogis!! We stopped at the Zapiecek restaurant in the Old Town section of Warsaw. we ate our fill of pierogis filled with meat and bacon, potato dumplings with a warm blue cheese sauce, and potato pancakes. By the time the meal was over, a walk through the Old Town area was a necessity to work off the food. In Old Town, we walked around and looked at all of the cool buildings around the area. Old Town was something that our tour guide from earlier and the concierge of the hotel recommended and it did not disappoint! All of the buildings were beautiful not only because of the architecture of them, but also the vibrant colors of some of the buildings. Also in the Old Town area were a lot of beautiful shops around the area where we went shopping for souvenirs. Naomi Bates wrote about her experience in Old Town, "Once we were all finished we headed into this cute little castle town. I bought a hat and a necklace. It was nice to see a change in scenery from what we have seen on this trip so far.
The last part of the day was spent at a fantastic meal at AleGloria. The meal was excellent and was a great way to finish off our last night here in Warsaw. Tomorrow we are off and running to Krakow! Check the "photos" section for more from our day in Warsaw!!
Greetings from Poland! We have arrived in Warsaw after a nice 6 and a half hour train ride from Berlin. With an early wake up, the gang jumped on the 9:27 train to Warsaw. On the train ride, students used the train to get some much needed rest after the long day yesterday in Berlin. The train was very nice and the kids got to spread out among the section of the train that we were in so that they could sleep comfortably!
Around 4:30 we arrived in Warsaw and headed to the beautiful Sheraton Hotel. As we arrived, a surprise was waiting for us in the lobby as James Korenman met up with our group!! It is good to have James on our trip! After a quick time to check in and get into our rooms, we had a wonderful dinner planned at a restaurant right around the corner from us called Pod Gigantami. It was a wonderful restaurant where we ate great meals that included beef shanks, roast beef, and pike. After dinner a group of us went out and explored the streets of Warsaw for a little to get us ready for our bike tour tomorrow! Check back in tomorrow to see how the kids make out on the bike tour! Check out the "Photos" section for more pictures of Warsaw!