The Road Home

World War II is a difficult subject for Germany, for the Germans must come to terms with what has happened in their past. This shows through their museums and sites, for the Germans have a general theme that I have noticed from the visits to different museums in Berlin. Berlin being our final stop, it was interesting to see how the German memory and interpretation of World War II compared to that of Poland, France, Britain, and the United States.

Nazi propaganda poster for Norway. In English it reads, “With Quisling For the new Norway.” Quisling was the name of the collaborative leader of Norway during the occupation.

The German museums struck me as odd, and when I was in the Zeughaus, the German Historical Museum, I couldn’t quite pin down what it was that made it this way. After some reflecting and thinking, I’ve arrived to the conclusion that the German museums try to portray the Nazis as an entirely different people. The representation of the Nazis and Nazi Germany as an entirely different people and Germany, I assume the German people are able to move beyond their past by identifying themselves as an entirely different sort of Germany. At the Museum of Terror, the museum focused in on key figures in the Third Reich leadership and the same is true for the Wannsee house. The Zeughaus in particular focused most of its space on the 1918-1939 period and the rise of Hitler, and the 1939-1945 section was smaller in comparison to that of the other countries we’ve been to. I believe this has to do with the fact that the Germans are trying to differentiate between Germany and Nazi Germany, for they wish to separate themselves from their past.

Norwegian fish cans sent by the Red Cross to Norwegian prisoners in Sauschenhausen concentration camp.

This interpretation conforms to my running theme on these blogs as to how different nations remember the war and how museums manipulate history to suit the agenda of those in power. In the case of Germany, they don’t want to forget the past, but they do want to reconcile the fact that they are not Nazis and do not share the Nazi ideology.

This month has been full of new experiences. Being able to travel throughout Europe alone was a new experience, and the learning that accompanied the traveling made it even greater. Reflecting back on the process of getting in this trip and funding it, I am honored that I made the cut and was able to have this study tour be a part of my life. Being in Europe and seeing the sites that World War II was fought has given me a new perspective on the utter destruction that mankind is capable of, and it will give me much insight on how to interpret current and future events.

View on the top of the Reichstag

It’s been an honor serving under Dr. Steigerwald, and alongside my comrades I can say this trip was both efficient and aesthetically pleasing.

Thanks for sticking in there and reading all my ramblings,


The Memory of the War and the Historical Manipulation of Museums

The Polish memory of World War II is very different than that of Britain, France, and the United States, for they do not have a collective memory of victory. The museums we visited reflected this, and showed the great contrast in how the war is remembered throughout the world. We visited the Schindler Museum and Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau.

Wall in Schindler Museum intended to be immersive

Beginning with the Schindler Museum’s representation of the war, it spends a great deal of focus on 1939, the year Poland was invaded, and the conditions under the various occupations. It was designed to be very immersive and make you feel as if you were walking through the streets of occupied Poland. The Polish museums did have a political agenda like all museums, and in the case of the Schindler museum it manifested itself much like it did in France. There was a lack of content on collaboration with the Nazis and Soviets and a much larger focus on the resistance. It will be interesting to see how this phenomenon manifests in the museums in Germany.

Floor tile in Schindler Museum

Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau was a different experience altogether. It is unlike any museum I have been to before, and the fact that over a million people were marched to their death there is simply unimaginable. Seeing the barracks that they were forced to stay in, the gas chambers they were systematically murdered in, and the ovens that their bodies were disposed of made me realize just how truly terrible the situation was. Reading about it in books and seeing pictures cannot do the horrors that were witnessed justice. The purpose behind remembering the holocaust here and using the camp as a museum is to ensure that another atrocity of this magnitude does not happen again. In the back of the camp there is a memorial with stones with a message written in all the languages of those who were murdered within the camp. In English it reads,” always let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from several countries in Europe.”

English Translation, “always let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from several countries in Europe”

Gate as Auschwitz II – Birkenau

The Polish memory of the war is ultimately one of destruction, despair, and horror, which is a stark contrast to the idea of “the good war” and “the greatest generation” that the United States and Britain have. It will be interesting to see how Germany approaches the memory of the war and how it compares to that of the United States, Britain, France, and Poland.


Eye of the Storm

Onward to France! We began our stay in France at the town of Bayeux, for it is near the beaches of the D-Day invasion and it was the first town to be liberated during the Battle of Normandy. We visited a variety of museums while in the Normandy region, and these museums told a different story than the ones in London. The London museums were very Anglo-centric and gave minimal credit to the Americans in comparison to the French museums. The British museums were focused on the idea of the People’s War, so they generally portrayed how the British people experienced the war.

The French museums provided a better view of American involvement, but they too had their own spin on things. Most of the French museums made it a point to talk about the French resistance every chance they could get, and the museums would often exaggerate the role played by the resistance to make it seem like it was a much bigger movement with more involvement than it really was. The museums at Caen, Utah, and Omaha were better about giving a straightforward telling of events without putting too much of a French bias on things, but the Army museum in Paris was a bit of a different case.

View from the bluffs behind Utah Beach

Ohio flag hanging in the airborne museum

Pratt & Whitley Double Wasp Engine. Twin row 18 cylinder radial engine used in the B26

The Army museum managed to completely gloss over why the French fell to the Germans so quickly in 1940. The museum made the argument that the French fought hard and very well against the Germans but that the Germans had won, but it fails to mention how the Germans managed to win if the French had fought so hard and well. This museum also played up the resistance more than any other, and it even had a section inside the resistance section dedicated to the feats of resistance fighters than were blind. The De Gaulle Wing of the museum was essentially a large piece of propaganda in favor of De Gaulle. The basis of the whole exhibit was that De Gaulle was great and that all the French people wanted him to be in power, but it then mentions that when he ran for re-election in 1965 he had a much lower number of votes than expected. Deductive reasoning would reach the conclusion that not quite all French people were in favor of De Gaulle, but the museum glosses over this fact too.

My cohorts, Tyler and Ian, and I in a crater at Pointe Du Hoc

Overall the museums were pleasant once the French bias was out of the way, and the trips to Utah and Omaha beach were just as great as I had hoped for. Pointe Du Hoc was a sight to behold with all the craters from the bombing, and being able to go inside the remaining German bunkers was a very enriching experience.

Martin B-26 Marauder

Now we are off to Poland for a quick few days before we reach the final leg of the trip to Berlin. I’ll be checking back in very soon with the word on Poland.

Not in Northwest Ohio Anymore


Map with a doodle of Hitler in Churchill War Rooms

I can most assuredly say that my navigational skills have increased in the past few days here in London. The group I was traveling from the Heathrow airport to the hotel initially got lost after leaving the Queensway tube stop, but we make it to the hotel after ten minutes of roaming around Bayswater Road. Coming from the tiny village of Cloverdale, Ohio, I have had little experience in public transport since it is non-existent there. I would consider myself competent enough to get around London via the tube now, for it is the primary form of transportation being used here.


The first stop we took in London was the Churchill War Rooms which took us past Parliament and Big Ben. The War Rooms portrayed World War II as a war of the people. This thought of the People’s War was brought up right at the start of our visit accompanied by an audio tour. It was explained that Churchill was reluctant to go underground because he wanted to share the experience of the war with his people during the Blitz. He eventually was forced underground following the bombing of his residence where he formerly worked out of.

Close-up of doodle of Hitler

The War Rooms showed that Churchill still shared the burdens of war after moving underground. He partook in rationing and endured the shortages associated with the war, but he still managed to have his tea. Despite being the Prime Minister, Churchill insisted on experiencing the war in the same fashion as the people.

Churchill’s Tea


Bletchley Park was where the main codebreaking of the Allies took place in World War II, and it further supported this idea of the People’s War. Signs were posted throughout the huts, the separated buildings that different codebreaking duties were done in, that fit the theme of a war of the people. These signs give the impression that their purpose was to encourage those at Bletchley to work hard to engage in the war effort in and outside of their jobs. There were multiple signs about raw materials and salvage needing to be saved as war materials, and this further implies that the people at home were helping in the war effort.

Another poster from the huts at Bletchley

Poster inside a hut at Bletchley


Another poster inside a hut at Bletchley

Another poster from the Bletchley huts

The Imperial War museum was different than I had imagined it, for its largest focus was on World War I. I suppose that this makes sense because the museum was established after World War I, but I figured there would be more on World War II providing its greater popularity in history. This was a welcome surprise, for it allowed me to see the British perspective on World War I too. There was a begrudging feeling of acceptance in a section of the World War I exhibit, and there was also the tale of the miserable conditions during the war. A section detailed how the Allied civilians didn’t want to end the war with an agreement and would rather have a decisive end since so much life had been lost. The World War II exhibit, but with a lesser focus on misery being experienced at home. The IWM also housed a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, and this engine was widely used by the Royal Air Force throughout the war. Ranging from uses in bombers, such as the Lancaster, to fighters, such as the Hurricane and Spitfire, the Merlin saw plenty of use in WWII.

Rolls-Royce Merlin, widely used British aircraft engine during WWII

Merlin aircraft engine










The ability to visit a warship in a river in the middle of London astounds me, and taking an excursion to the HMS Belfast was a pleasurable experience. I had never been in a warship of any kind before, let alone one that saw action in World War II, so it was a new experience for me. Experiencing the struggles moving around in the ship (though I am 6’3”, so a little taller than the average Royal Navy Serviceman) allowed me to imagine what it must have been like to experience battle conditions in the confines of the ship.

View from the HMS Belfast overlooking the six inch guns pointing toward London


My only regret is not making it out to the RAF Museum because of time constraints, but my overall experience in London has been a positive one and a good kickoff to my travels. Off to France we go.

View from the ferry en route to France


Once More Unto the Breach

Hello all!

My name is Nathan Byrne and I am a third year student here at The Ohio State University. I am majoring in History with a focus on political and military history and I am minoring in Scandinavian Studies. I know the Scandinavian Studies minor may seem a little outlandish, but it is interesting alongside my Swedish heritage, och ja, jag kan tala Svenska men det är inte mitt första språk. I am from a small village in the northern corner of Ohio called Cloverdale, which has a population of roughly eighty people, so traveling to London, Paris, and Berlin will be a bit of a change of scenery for me.

I have never traveled outside of the United State before nor have I ever been on a plane before, so the traveling will be completely new to me. I do not believe that I would have the opportunity to travel like this outside of this program, so I am honored to have this chance to get out and explore a bit beyond the border of the United States. I’m looking forward to the traveling and will be making regular posts throughout the trip to keep readers up to date with my experiences.

Sounds like a great time to go to Europe.