Holocaust and WW II
Holocaust School Trip / Study Tour: Berlin – Dresden - Theresienstadt - Prague – Krakow – Auschwitz
“The stages of the Holocaust: from racist ideology in Berlin to the gas chambers of Auschwitz”
Day 1. Berlin
morning: Arrival in Berlin. Check-in at your hotel. Lunch.
afternoon: “Historic Berlin” – from the Alexanderplatz we go via the Nikolausviertel, the Protestant cathedral, the monument to Frederick the Great, the Humboldt University and the famous Unter den Linden Street to the Brandenburg Gate, and then take a tour of the Reichstag and a walk up inside the glazed dome of the building for a panorama of the city from the viewing terrace. The route we take will give us an insight into the city’s development through history, from its modest medieval beginnings, through its days as the capital of Prussia and a European metropolis, to the period of the Third Reich.
evening: Free time.
Day 2. Berlin
morning: “Berlin – capital of the Third Reich” – a look at the madness that was National Socialism, and at the destruction of the city in World War II. We will tour the exhibition “The topography of terror”, which is housed in the building that until 1945 was the headquarters of the Gestapo, a prison, the head office of the SS, and the office of the German counter-intelligence forces – the most criminal institutions of National Socialism. The exhibition examines the structure of the apparatus of terror of National Socialist Germany, identifies the “bureaucrat criminals”, and reveals the organisation behind the Nazi violence.
Next we go on to the nearby monumental Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and tour the exhibition beneath it.
afternoon: “The Berlin Wall – divided city, divided Europe”. The German capital, bisected for decades by the wall, became a symbol of the Cold War and the divided Europe in the wake of World War II. The wall itself became a symbol of the “iron curtain”, behind which the countries of Eastern Europe suffered bondage under the Communist dictatorships. The Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain and the Cold War all come together into a coherent narrative at Check Point Charlie, the former border crossing point between East and West Berlin, and as we tour the Berlin Wall site of memory at Bernauer Strasse.
evening: Dinner and free time.
Day 3. Berlin (optional)
“Berlin – cultural metropolis”. Contemporary Berlin is a European metropolis with a vast array of cultural attractions. We therefore propose a “day off” from the fundamental theme of our tour to take advantage of a few of the city’s cultural gems.
The options include Museum Island (Museumsinsel) with the famous Pergamonmuseum, the paintings of the European Old Masters in the Kulturforum, the Babelsberg film studio, or a trip out to nearby Potsdam, with the splendid Sanssouci Palace and gardens.
If you would prefer to remain closer to the main theme of our tour, we recommend one of the following options:
- The Jewish Museum – an astonishing work of contemporary architecture by Daniel Libeskind offering an insight into the millennial history and culture of the Jews in Germany.
- The Stasi Museum – in the former secret police headquarters we learn about the functioning of the system of invigilation and terror in the Communist German Democratic Republic,
- The Scheunenviertel – the former Jewish quarter in Berlin, now home to a trendy art scene. The dominant architectural feature in the district is the New Synagogue with its golden domes, Germany’s largest, reconstructed after the destruction of the “Crystal Night”,
- The exhibition in the Site of Memory at the House of the Wannsee Conference (Haus der Wannseekonferenz). This well organised exhibition presents the historical background to and progress of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” in the place where the decision to commit the mass murder of Europe’s Jews took on planned and structured form, enlisting the collaboration of all the institutions of the German state.
Day 4. Berlin - Dresden - Theresienstadt - Prague
morning: Departure from Berlin for Prague. En route stops in Dresden and Theresienstadt:
- “Dresden – an encounter with recreated beauty”. Historic Dresden was almost entirely destroyed in the British and American carpet bombing raids in Febed 1945. The city as rebuilt after World War II is breath-taking, in terms of both its overall panorama and the Baroque beauty of individual buildings. Programme includes the Zwinger Palace, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), the Semper Opera, and the Brühlsche Terrasse, colloquially known as the “Balcony of Europe”.
- “The family ghetto of Theresienstadt”. During World War II, the eighteenth-century fortified town of Theresienstadt housed a huge ghetto in which Jewish families chiefly from Bohemia and Moravia were concentrated. For the purposes of Nazi propaganda, the Theresienstadt ghetto was intended as a model family camp, but in reality it functioned as a concentration camp, and the living conditions were extremely poor. The programme includes the exhibition in the former Gestapo prison in the Small Fortress, the Ghetto Museum, and the reconstructed residential barracks in the Magdeburg military barracks.
evening: Arrival in Prague, check-in at your hotel, and dinner.
Day 5. Full-day tour of Prague
morning: Hradčany – Prague Castle, including St Vitus’ Cathedral and the Golden Lane, the historic Mala Strana quarter, the medieval Charles Bridge over the river Vltava, and the Old Town Square.
afternoon: A stroll along the lanes of Josefov, Prague’s Jewish quarter, including a visit to the Early Gothic Old New Synagogue and the old Jewish cemetery. We will also go to the Pinkas Synagogue, in which the names of all the murdered Jews of Bohemia and Moravia are inscribed on the walls. Also here there is a unique collection of several thousand drawings by children in the Theresienstadt ghetto. From Josefov we will head towards Wenceslas Square, the main square in Prague, venue of the mass demonstrations during Czechoslovakia’s “velvet revolution”.
Day 6. Prague - Krakow
morning: Transfer from Prague to Krakow
afternoon: “Krakow, city of kings”. Tour of the Old Town in Krakow, the historic capital of Poland. Programme includes the Main Market Square, the Cloth Hall, and St Mary’s Basilica, with its famous wooden altarpiece made by Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss); the Gothic courtyard of Collegium Maius, the narrow streets of the Old Town, the Cathedral on Wawel Hill, with the tombs of the Polish kings, and the Royal Castle.
evening: Free time
Day 7. Krakow - Auschwitz - Krakow
excursion: “Auschwitz – the topography and logic of the Holocaust”: two-part tour. The first part covers the exhibition in the prisoner blocks in Auschwitz I – Stammlager (the original camp): the death block, the wall of death, and the only surviving gas chamber and crematorium. After a rest, tour of Auschwitz II – Birkenau, the site of the mass extermination of the Jews, with the preserved prisoners’ barracks, the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, and the monument commemorating the victims of the camp. Return to Krakow.
evening: Dinner, followed by a meeting with an “eye-witness to history” – a survivor of the Krakow ghetto or a “Righteous Among the Nations of the World”, one of the people who helped fellow Jewish residents of the city survive during the Holocaust.
Day 8. Krakow
morning: “Before the Holocaust” – tour of Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter of Krakow. Visit to the Gothic and Renaissance Old Synagogue, now the Jewish Museum, and to the sixteenth-century Jewish cemetery adjacent to the Remuh Synagogue. After a rest, a tour of the site of the former ghetto in the district of Podgórze – surviving sections of the ghetto wall; the Eagle Pharmacy, a site of memory; and the “empty chairs” memorial. Lunch.
afternoon: Tour of the multimedia exhibition “Krakow under Nazi occupation 1939 – 1945” in the former Oskar Schindler Factory.
evening: Dinner in a Jewish restaurant in Kazimierz and a concert of klezmer music.
Check-out. Transfer to the airport and flight out of Krakow.