A the Site of Resistance

            As I marveled at the vast country of Germany, it was undeniable how deep the history runs. Throughout my studies in the States, we have analyzed countless sources to further our understanding and prepare us for the journey we embarked on overseas. Truthfully, nothing could have prepared us for the emotions and level of comprehension achieved when being physically present in the locations instead of just reading about them.

            Upon entering the Resistance Memorial Museum in Germany, you are greeted by a large statue of Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who led Operation Valkyrie. This operation was a failed bomb attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in late July 1944. The wall to your left holds a wreath that marks the exact  spot where Stauffenberg was shot and killed after being captured. Although we had discussed this man, his crew, and his plot in class, nothing prepared us for being in the execution place of a man who was just moments away from saving millions of lives.

            The Memorial Museum did a phenomenal job explaining the significance of minor mistakes made. Stauffenberg had sustained injuries and was forced to use special pliers and equipment to compensate for his damaged hand. As he drove off away from the blast of the bomb, the equipment was discarded on the side of the road. Once found he was convicted almost immediately due to his special equipment. The site itself was historic and told a story. The men were speaking loudly against the Nazi party in prayer until the rifles were fired, killing them instantly. Stauffenberg was a Nazi but was revolting against the corruption of the Nazi party. He aimed to keep Germany whole and “cleansed” but was unsupportive of Hitler’s plans.

            Grasping the concept of war is difficult and treacherous, especially a war as horrendous as World War II. Germans were in a time of peril, and Hitler rose to power by offering them everything the people wanted, he just painted it through a rose- tinted lens. But there were opponents. Operation Valkyrie was a prime example of a coup formed against the Nazi party.

            A large portion of the Nazi party supported Hitler due to his promises of bettering the economy and state of being. Soon, Hitler began utilizing his brute force to ensure compliance leading to a compliant majority. The Resistance Memorial Museum offers insight that sites are sources themselves because they offer a personal experience to the few who kept their humility and humanity by resisting a force they felt was in control of too much power. Even with the majority of the people supporting the Nazi party, there were few who decided their ideas were worth fighting for.

Tainted Polish Innocence

            Poland holds some of the deepest and darkest aspects of World War II, the most gut wrenching took place at the Auschwitz Concentration Camps. As a Polish/Hungarian Jewish woman, I felt such a deep connection and appreciation for my ability to walk through these places where my family endured so much. After the visit to the concentration camp, the group had a chance to visit Oskar Schindler’s Factory Museum, which primarily focused on the city of Krakow. This museum brought to light some truth behind the Polish innocence in the war and participation.

            Throughout the course of the semester, this class has studied participation in the war and passive action that benefited the Nazi regime. Poland was occupied  quickly by the Nazis and unfortunately left many endangered citizens unprotected. The Schindler Museum discusses the conflict that the Poles faced with protecting the Jews or protecting themselves. Many Poles did not stand up in defense of the Jews because their resistance threatened them and their families; they adopted a “better them than me” strategy.  Even those inclined to help sometimes faced this choice. In one case, a Krakow  woman had housed a Jewish man for some time until  “our cleaner threatened to expose us to the police. By morning I asked him to leave the house not caring where else he went.”

            Because they chose to protect themselves over the Jewish population, Poles can be held accountable for aiding in the Nazi work. In our studies we read a book discussing the mass murder of a Jewish population in the Polish town of Jedwabne by their own Polish neighbors. The Poles acted in fear of being the next victims of the Nazi regime. Families turned on each other and so did neighbors. Although there were several Poles who were participating in a resistance and helping the Jews, one cannot disregard those who participated in Nazi actions just to preserve themselves at the cost of others.

Commemoration of the Dead of War

Memorializing and commemorating the dead, good or evil, has been a practice that runs centuriesold. France harbors some of the most beautiful cemeteries I have ever visited. Throughout my life I have spent years researching and finding new cemeteries, and with my Transnational History of WWII group, I got the chance to explore the American Military Cemetery and the La Cambe German War Cemetery, where Nazis are buried, in France (see images below). In every cemetery I visit, I try to enter with an unbiased broad view of those beneath my feet and allow myself to be drawn to specific graves instead of seeking them. I have observed that many people hold biased opinions in cemeteries which promotes hostility.
First, as a woman from a strong Jewish descent, I somehow still felt at peace in the German
As we moved onto the American Cemetery, where graves could not be approached without
special authorization, many of my peers spoke about how moving the cemetery and the experience was. I was mind-blown. We knew nothing about these men besides their names and what country they died for cemetery. I did not feel hate for the men who lay below my feet, some as young as sixteen, because these men were merely sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers who were surrounded by a toxic culture that infiltrated their mind. They believed to be fighting for their country’s freedom due to immense propaganda and brainwashing. What was unsettling to me was the reaction of my peers. They scowled through the German cemetery and asked questions like “why are we even here?” “I don’t want to be somewhere with Nazis.” The only thing I felt was sympathy towards the German soldiers, men with memories and lives dehumanized by those around me who claim dehumanization is wrong.
yet there was so much bias presented. Moving through to the American cemetery I was unable to approach the plots but still noticed something very telling.
The American cemetery buried its dead facing East and only East. In the German cemetery the heads of the people were buried facing North and South. If the ground permits, Christianity suggests the dead be buried facing East. Scripture states that the second coming of Christ will be from the East so the dead should meet Him face-to-face. Jewish individuals are supposed to be buried facing west to face Israel but they, too, were buried looking eastward in the American War Cemetery. As for the Germans, I know of no religious affiliation with burying someone facing North and South. I feel the goal of the cemetery designers was to keep it as plain and unbiased as possible in order to not seem to be glorifying their deaths. I feel the overall experience at these cemeteries altered my brain by reminding me to continue to view life as something so fragile and sometimes used on the wrong purposes.


German Cemetery


American Cemetery

Bias in the Museums

         As someone who has spent their life within the United States, I have become accustomed to the portrayals and memorabilia throughout the nation. Now that I have traveled across the world and landed in London to study, I have begun to realize and observe how differently nations portray the same events. The Second World War is highly recognized and studied but the British and the United States, although allies in the war, have a different take and point of view.

            The United States often has WWII memorabilia and museums that demonstrate entering the war from December 7, 1941 as an unstoppable and driving force. The US is portrayed as well organized and already planned without flaws in sight, but the truth cannot be found within the bias walls of an American museum, but in the museums of other Allied forces halfway across the world. British propaganda signs were scattered throughout the Imperial War Museum stating things such as “The Yanks aren’t coming. Get ready boys.” This was a way to take a stab at the American forces for not joining the war before Pearl Harbor while also advertising to get more British enlistment. Often times, Churchill did not agree with the thoughts or actions of the American military forces but was forced to come to terms with them under a compromise. The American forces wanted to enter the war at full strength and brutally fight back the Germans, while the British had a more tactical and effective approach of deception attacks that would save thousands of lives. American museums do not demonstrate or give credit to the British powers for their ideas and strategies in war.

            This analysis can bring many to the idea that the British would have survived the war and won without the American forces. American museums demonstrate their numbers and strength is what turned the war around, while British museums will not acknowledge how desperately they needed the American forces. Although Pear Harbor was a devastating day, it was a mere blessing for the Allied Powers because the American forces came in with the idea of “Germany First. Then Japan” which allowed for central focus to be on the Germans.

 Both the United States and Britain use bias in their displays. The British do not fully acknowledge the need for American forces and the Americans do not fully acknowledge their mistakes and adaptation to British ideology for the better. Each display allows a new form of information while also providing a bias. Combating a bias is only possible to see it from both sides.