Holocaust and WW II
Holocaust Study Tour: Berlin – Warsaw – Krakow – 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 - Warsaw
morning: Train or coach transfer from Berlin to Warsaw. Check-in at your hotel and lunch.
afternoon: “Warsaw – like a phoenix from the ashes”. Warsaw experienced more tragic destruction during World War II than any other city. On liberation from German occupation, the city that before the war had been home to 1.5 million people had a population of barely a thousand, and almost 85% of its built fabric had been razed to the ground. We propose a tour of the city rebuilt after the war, in particular the Old Town, UNESCO listed as a unique work of reconstruction of an entire historic district of a city.
evening: Dinner and free time.
Day 5. Warsaw
morning: “The ghetto and the ghetto uprising”. Before World War II Warsaw’s was the second-largest Jewish community in the world. During the war the Germans established a ghetto in the city, in which some 450,000 Jews lived in appalling conditions and from which the majority were subsequently taken to be murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka. The final act of the ghetto’s existence was the uprising, which broke out in April 1943. The history of the ghetto and the uprising are the subjects of our morning walking tour along the route of Memory of Jewish Martyrdom and Struggle.
We end our tour at the Jewish cemetery, where there are mass graves of the ghetto victims, symbolic graves of Holocaust victims, a memorial to Janusz Korczak, and the Memorial to the Child Victims of the Holocaust.
afternoon: The Holocaust was more than the extermination of millions of people. The entire unique culture of the East European Jews was annihilated. A visit to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is the best possible introduction to Jewish culture and its specifics in Eastern Europe.
evening: Free time or a themed activity:
- a meeting with one of the “Children of the Holocaust” – a survivor from the Warsaw ghetto,
- a screening of the Andrzej Wajda film "Korczak" or Roman Polański’s "The Pianist".
Day 6. Warsaw - Krakow
morning: Transfer to Krakow by train. Check-in at your hotel and lunch.
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 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 those who helped to rescue Jewish fellow residents of the city 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.