Union University
Union University Dept of History

Department News

Union Students Participate in Holocaust Trip to Europe

Jun 2, 2012 -

Five Union University students went with Dr. Stephen Carls as members of a Holocaust travel/study group to Europe from May 20 to June 2. Altogether, twenty-six people from three West Tennessee colleges – Union University, the University of Tennessee at Martin, and Rhodes College – participated in the trip; the group included twenty-three students and three faculty members (one from each school). Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls of UTM was the director of the tour.

The group began its sojourn in Warsaw, Poland, where it visited numerous sites of historical interest, including the area of the World War II Jewish Ghetto, the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the city’s Old Town, the University of Warsaw library, and the Palace of Culture and Science which was a gift to Poland from the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin’s rule. While in Warsaw, the Holocaust travelers also took an afternoon side trip to the Nazi death camp at Treblinka, which was the killing site for close to 900,000 people, mostly Jews, during World War II. On the way to its next main travel destination, the group stopped at Czestochowa to see the Black Madonna, Poland’s holiest icon.

Oswiecim, Poland, where the concentration and death camp of Auschwitz/ Birkenau is located, was the second major stop on the tour. After spending the night at the Catholic Center for Dialogue and Prayer, the group toured Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, in the morning, and then spent the afternoon going through Auschwitz II/ Birkenau, which was the extermination camp that the Nazis used heavily to carry out their “Final Solution” for the Jews in Europe. After their day-long visit to the two camps, the group members met with Father/Dr. Manfred Deselaers, a priest responsible for the educational programs of the Center for Dialogue and Prayer, to discuss the meaning and impact of what they had seen that day.

The Holocaust travelers then moved on to Krakow, Poland, their next important stopping point. Highlights there included visits to the 800-year-old Wieliczka Salt Mine, the State Rooms and Private Apartments of the Wawel Castle, the Jewish Quarter, and the Schindler Factory Museum. It was in and around Krakow that American film director Steven Spielberg shot the Oscar-winning movie Schindler’s List in 1993. The Schindler museum, which opened in 2010, includes a depiction of life in Krakow during the five-year German occupation of the city in World War II.

After staying nearly a week in Poland, the tour group members went by coach to Prague, the Czech Republic, which served as their base of operations for the ensuing two days. The students and faculty leaders took part in a walking tour of the city center, a visit to the Jewish Cemetery and some of Prague’s Jewish synagogues, and a jaunt through the Wallenstein Garden where they saw a special exhibit marking the 70th anniversary of the assassination in Prague of Nazi SS leader Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. Another part of the group’s itinerary in the Czech Republic was an afternoon trip to the Nazi concentration camp/ghetto at Theresienstadt (Terezin), located 60 kilometers north of Prague. The Theresienstadt camp contained numerous artists and thousands of children among its prisoners.

Berlin, Germany, was the last significant focal point of the trip. Before arriving there, however, the Holocaust group stopped briefly in the German city of Dresden to get a tour of that city’s central area and to hear about the impact of World War II on its history. Once in Berlin, the voyagers from Tennessee spent their first morning visiting the Reichstag Dome, the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial), the site of Hitler’s underground bunker, and Checkpoint Charlie. They continued their city tour in the afternoon with a first stop at the Topography of Terror Museum, which deals with the history of Berlin during Hitler’s Third Reich as well as with the story of the Nazi SS and Gestapo and their crimes. The group’s final visit that day was to the Museum of German Resistance which gives attention to several strands of uncoordinated German opposition to Hitler during his rule, climaxed by the failed attempt of German officers on Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944. On the final day of their stay in Berlin, students and faculty went to Track 17 of the Grünewald Train Station where most of the Jews of Berlin were herded onto trains for deportation to concentration camps in the East and to the Haus der Wannsee where a plan to implement the “Final Solution” for the extermination of Europe’s Jews was presented to high ranking Nazi officials on January 20, 1942. The Holocaust study group left Berlin on June 2 to return to the United States.

The five Union University students who went on the trip to Europe were: Haley Bell, Tyler Golden, Leah Hamilton, Jeffrey Hirtes, and Ginny Seger. The Holocaust trip was the last component of a special section of World Civilization from the 18th Century (HIS 180/102) that Dr. Carls taught during the spring semester.

Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls (with red sack on her back) talks about the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 to Holocaust travelers during a walking tour in Warsaw, Poland, on May 21, 2012. The group stands in the middle of a memorial to the 1944 uprising.

Partipants in the 2012 Holocaust trip to Europe stand in front of the Chopin Monument in Lazienki Park in Warsaw, Poland, on May 22. They are: (front row, left to right) Dr. Stephen Carls, Randy Kennedy, Jeffrey Hirtes, Leah Cherry, Alexis Copeland, Ginny Seger (sitting on steps, as are the two students who follow), Katie McDougal, and Katie Faucher; (second row, left to right) Courtney Williams, Rachel Sanders, Macie Lunyong, Taylor Burnett, Marian Hill, Ashley Tufton, and McKenzie Bonetti; (third row, left to right) Casey Tull, Annika Wuerfel, Janine Brown, Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls, Mia Branca, Hunter Ralston, Haley Bell, and Leah Hamilton; (back row, left to right) Tyler Golden and Eric Haldeman.

Several travelers on the 2012 Holocaust tour to Europe enjoy a dinner at a restaurant in the Old Town of Warsaw, Poland, on May 22. They are (starting on the left, going clockwise) Haley Bell, Leah Hamilton, Janine Brown, Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls, Dr. Stephen Carls, Ginny Seger, and Jeffrey Hirtes.

Members of the Holocaust travel group on May 22, 2012, visit a recently completed memorial to the Chlodna Street footbridge that connected the two halves of the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland during World War II.

The central Monument at the Treblinka Death Camp memorial sits among the Field of 17,000 Stones, with each stone representing one of the Jewish communities that disappeared as a result of the Holocaust. Holocaust travel partisipants visited the World War II camp site on May 23, 2012.

Union student Tyler Golden on May 23, 2012, walks in the Field of 17,000 Stones at the site of the World War II Treblinka Death Camp. Each stone represents a lost Jewish community as a result of the Nazi Holocaust.

On display at the Warsaw Uprising Museum is a replica of the American Liberator B-24J that dropped supplies to Polish insurgents during their uprising against the Germans in the late summer of 1944. Union student Jeff Hirtes is immediately beneath the plane looking at a museum display on May 24, 2012.

People participate in a church service centered on the chapel of the Black Madonna at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, on May 24, 2012. The Black Madonna icon, which is located in the center of the photo, has made Czestochowa a popular shrine that attacts multitudes of Polish people each year. The Holocaust travel group visited the shrine on its way to Auschwitz.

The Holocaust travel group walks through the entry gate to Auschwitz I during a tour of the facility on May 25, 2012.

Holocaust trip participants join together with Father/Dr. Manfred Deselaers on May 25, 2012, at the Catholic Center for Dialogue and Prayer in Oswiecim, Poland, following a meeting with him about the Holocaust and its impact. They are: (left to right) Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls, Eric Haldeman, Leah Hamilton, Father/Dr. Manfred Deselaers, Haley Bell, Hunter Ralston, Taylor Burnett, Katie McDougal, Mia Branca, Tyler Golden, Ashley Tufton, Katie Faucher, Macie Lunyong, Leah Cherry, Annika Wuerfel, Jeff Hirtes (behind Annika), McKenzie Bonetti, Rachel Sanders, Courtney Williams (behind Rachel), Dr. Stephen Haynes, Marion Hill, Ginny Seger, Alexis Copeland, Janine Brown, Casey Tull, and Randy Kennedy. Dr. Stephen Carls took the photo.

Holocaust travel participants descend into the chapel of the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, Poland, on May 26, 2012.

The students from Union University on the European Holocaust trip stand in the courtyard of the Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland, on May 26, 2012. They are: (left to right) Tyler Golden, Ginny Seger, Haley Bell, Leah Hamilton, and Jeffrey Hirtes.

Holocaust trip travelers use stereoscopic devices containing archival photos to learn about life in interwar Krakow during a visit to the city's Schindler Factory Museum on May 27, 2012, while others wait their turn to look. Jeff Hirtes of Union University is seated on the left. Others in the room include: (left to right and who are identifiable) McKenzie Bonetti (seated, in white sweater), Alexis Copeland, Casey Tull, Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls, Eric Haldeman, and Hunter Ralston.

The Union contingent on the Holocaust trip to Europe stands together on the Charles Bridge in Prague, the Czech Republic, on May 28, 2012. They are: (left to right) Tyler Golden, Leah Hamilton, Jeffrey Hirtes, Haley Bell, Dr. Stephen Carls, and Ginny Seger.

A trumpeter plays a tune on the hour from the top of the Old Town Hall in Prague on May 28, 2012.

Union student Jeffrey Hirtes passes through the entrance into the Gestapo prison area of the concentration camp located at Theresienstadt (Terezin), the Czech Republic, on May 28, 2012. Theresienstadt was also known as a ghetto and a transit camp.

A Star of David and a Christian cross dominate a Jewish-Christian cemetery at Theresienstadt (Terezin), the Czech Republic. the Holocaust travel group visited the site, located next to the Small Fortress at Terezin, on May 28, 2012.

Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls (wearing the white hat) talks to Holocaust travelers about some of the gravestones located in the Jewish cemetery in Prague, the Czech Republic, during a group visit there on May 29, 2012.

The beauty of the interior of the Church of Our Lady in Dresden, Germany, greets the Holocaust travelers from Tennessee on May 30, 2012.

Dr. Stephen Carls, wearing his Phi Alpha Theta sweatshirt, stands in front of the Protestant French Cathedral on the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin on May 31, 2012.

Participants in the Holocaust trip to Europe gather together in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on May 31, 2012. They are: (front row, kneeling) Dr. Stephen Carls, Eric Haldeman, and Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls; (second row, standing, beginning with fourth person from the left) Leah Hamilton, Haley Bell, Ginny Seger, Mia Branca, Taylor Burnett, Ashley Tufton, Macie Lunyong, and Annika Wuerfel; (third row, standing) Casey Tull, Alexis Copeland, Hunter Ralston, Janine Brown, Courtney Williams, Rachel Sanders, Marian Hill, Katie Faucher, Leah Cherry, Katie McDougal, and Jeff Hirtes; (back row, standing) Dr. Stephen Haynes, Randy Kennedy, Tyler Golden, and McKenzie Bonetti.

Union students Haley Bell (left) and Leah Hamilton stand on May 31, 2012, in front of one of the many paintings done on a remaining segment of the Berlin Wall. The paintings collectivley are known as the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall.

Photos depicting the responses of various religious groups to the Nazi regime in Germany fill a wall at the Museum of German Resistance. The Holocaust group visited the museum on May 31, 2012.

Participants in the Holocaust trip stand on a commemorative platform of the Grünewald railroad station located in an affluent section of Berlin on June 1, 2012. The Grünewald station served as the main deportation point for Jews in Berlin during World War II. The dates of each deportation train and its destination are indicated all along the edge of the platform.

Members of the Holocaust travel group (right hand side of photo) on June 1, 2012, enter the Wannsee House where the Wannsee Conference, which focused on the presentation of a plan by Reinhard Heydrich for the extermination of Europe's Jews (referred to as the "Final Solution"), took place on January 20, 1942.