Hitler and Hotdogs


Being in Berlin for only a few days, I have seen German culture represented by an overshadowing and juxtaposing figure and item: Hitler and hotdogs.

Our WWII tour of Germany began in the German Historical Museum, which was filled with the rich history of the three Reichs and the periods in between. Naturally, our group spent the most time in the section on the Third Reich, how it formed and how it ended. Yet in this section, there is little on the actual battles, logistics, and military movements of World War II. Rather, the rise and fall of the Third Reich, most especially Hitler, focuses on social and cultural aspects. Rooms were filled with propaganda posters discriminating against the Jews, Gypsies, and disabled, representations of and footage from concentration camps, and descriptions of life under Nazi regime. I was surprised to find that this is what Germany has chosen to focus on to represent the war. There was no hiding what happened from 1933 to 1945, nor was there a shameful taste to the exhibit; rather, it simply is part of their history.

As we made our way to the old Nazi and SS headquarters and the Topography of Terror Museum, it became clear that one cannot talk about German culture without talking about the Third Reich and World War II.  The remnants of the war and the Nazi ideology underlie the architecture and organization of the city of Berlin. Throughout the city there are plaques describing buildings that were taken over by the Nazis and describe what they were turned into during the war and who took them over after. With every turn of a street corner, the rich, dark history of Germany can be found.

Hitler’s leftovers in Berlin are then coupled with endless stands of street meat, kebobs, currywurst, and hotdogs. If the Nazi regime fills history museums and buildings, German cuisine and meats fill the streets and restaurants surrounding the former. Our first day here we grabbed lunch at an open market near Wittenbergplatz. At the turn of the first corner, I laughed when I saw people eating hotdogs with their fingers and without a bun. This was exactly what I thought Germany to be like. And the nonexistent ratio of meat to bun was not an isolated incident. Walking the streets of Berlin, one can often find people eating bratwurst about 8 inches longer than the roll it’s in.

It has been amazing to see how a nation deals with such a dark and twisted past as they move forward in creating a peaceful, unified Europe. So far, our tour has been studying how other nations were affected by the war and how they remember it. Now in Germany, we focus on how the Germans responded to a change in culture and attitude during Hitler’s reign. Most specifically, it has been interesting to see how they acknowledge Hitler and the Third Reich today. I was surprised to find that Mein Kampf is illegal to print in Germany and that during a student’s education he or she must visit a concentration camp or a Nazi site. This shows that Germans accept their shadow of a past as part of their historical story.

The Land of Gluten and Dairy

IMG_4460  Baguettes, croissants, crêpes, fromage, and Nutella: France, the land of gluten and dairy.  After five days in Paris, I am almost certain I consumed more carbs and sugars than I have ever in my life. Needless to say, I am happy to finally travel to the land of meat and potatoes now.

On our first night in Paris, as the eleventh hour neared, our group made our way to the Eiffel Tower. We sat on the lawn and took in the beauty of this massive copper-colored landmark. We were thankful for such a beautiful night, especially because that we had experienced nothing but rain and wind in the city of London. That first night was what I had always imagined Paris to be like (minus the people who harassed you to buy beer, wine, champagne, and key chains). Not long after sitting down amongst the hundreds of people on the lawn (most of whom were American), the Eiffel Tower began to sparkle with lights against the Parisian night sky and we watched in awe. But, over the few days following, I became to see the magnificence of the Eiffel Tower and the grandeur of the city a superficial veil for a dirty and smelly city that lay behind it.


What shocked me the most was not the language barrier or the different dress styles, but rather, the attitude and way of life of most Parisians. Whether it was shopping, entering a restaurant, or buying food, most Parisians were uninviting. This made me feel even more like a tourist than I thought. And what only added to this was that Parisians close down shops and restaurants from five to about seven; it is only after seven that they eat dinner. At first, it did not bother me too much. I was just excited about the smell and taste of real bread and baguettes, ice creams and crêpes, and every kind of cheese imaginable. Yet, by the end of my time here in Paris, I found it hard to understand how Parisians eat dinner so late! Lastly, as we made our way around the city, I quickly found the Metro (the underground railway system) to be shockingly dirty and slow. I quickly saw the juxtaposition of the beautiful city above ground with the grimy underground beneath it.



What had been only been a backdrop to movies and media became an actual reality to me while in Paris. Despite the attitude and the filth, I did enjoyed getting to see the Mona Lisa, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame; I was excited about putting my lock on the Pont de l’Archevêché.  Our group explored the city, rain and shine, ate every crêpe and baguette we saw, and shopped on the Champs-Élysées. We ate macrons at Ladurée’s and entirely too big crêpes filled with what seemed like an entire jar of Nutella the last night under the Eiffel Tower. Our next and last leg of our WWII tour is Berlin, Germany.

We’ll Go


“We’ll go.” General Eisenhower’s famous two words that commenced the Allied invasion of Normandy on the 6th of June 1944 was the theme of our group’s travels to Normandy, France this past week. Eisenhower, faced with the prospect of halting the invasion in the teeth of bad weather, decided to go forward with the amphibious attack on the five beaches along the French coast. Conversely, for the past few days, we have been blessed with beautiful weather in the town of Bayeux as we make our own invasion of Normandy. Every morning when Professor Steigerwald asks the group if we are ready to get on the bus, many of us wittily respond: “We’ll go.”  From Utah and Omaha Beaches, Pointe du Hoc, Pegasus Bridge, Arromanches, and German, American, and British cemeteries, we have explored almost all of the aspects of the strategic and thoroughly planned attack on Nazi forces to bring down the Third Reich.

First on our agenda was the opportunity to compare the differences between Utah and Omaha Beach. Historically, Omaha Beach is where the most brutal fighting between the Nazis and the Americans took place on D-Day. It was Omaha, rather than Utah, that was the toughest beach to take. However, as a memorial to D-Day, Utah Beach does more justice in remembering the American lives lost on French soil than Omaha does. This is quite contrary to what I had expected. At Utah Beach, there was a space cleared for plaques, statues, and a museum. In fact, many of German General Irwin Rommel’s defense tactics were preserved on the beach. On the contrary, the beaches of Omaha have been recently developed, and summer homes, restaurants, and shops line the shore. The only visible commemoration to the Allied victory is an erected steel work of art on the shoreline. Besides one closed bunker and the empty encasement of artillery pieces, the beach has been wiped clear of remnants.

Additionally, our group has spent the last few days comparing and contrasting how three nations commemorate the lives lost during and after D-Day in Normandy. We first entered the German cemetery, where the headstones to graves were black and laid flat on the ground; they simply read, “Here lies a solider.” In general, the German cemetery had a much darker and less peaceful feel compared to that of the Allied cemeteries. We then explored the American Cemetery, where graves were marked with uniform white crosses. The buildings and attached museum gave the grounds a more pristine and clean feel. As Ohio State students, we also laid roses at each of the thirteen graves of fallen fellow Buckeyes that died in the D-Day invasion or soon thereafter. Lastly, we walked through the British cemetery here in Bayeux. It was sobering to experience the tranquility and serenity felt on the grounds. Not only did the graves have personal messages from family members on the headstones, but the rows were also lined with flowers and trees. Even more, the cemetery consisted of graves for the fallen Germans, Poles, Canadians, Czechs, Italians, and French, not just Brits.

Besides the various invasion points and commemoration memorials, our group has been enjoying the weather and endless amounts of bread, crepes, and Nutella in the land of the French. In the quaint town of Bayeux, many of us try to make due with the few phrases we know when speaking to the locals. “We’ll go” to Paris come Sunday, where I anticipate a more cultural aspect of the war to be studied.


Mind the Gap

    It goes without question that America’s entry into and contribution to World War II led to the Allied victory.  However, IMG_3944I’ve come to see that victory in an entirely different light from London, England.


Arriving in London five days ago, Hannah Parks and I walked the streets of Westminster as we waited for our colleagues to
arrive. As we looked around, we quickly came to find that the remembrance of the men and women who waged WWII surrounds the urban hustle and bustle of the city. Juxtaposed to clothing stores, food markets, and pubs are statues, museums, and memorials of the collective effort to defeat the Führer. As we walked from Charring Cross to Westminster Abbey, we saw statues to Bernard Montgomery and William Slim and a memorial to French women in the Resistance. Without question, London is a monumental city.


IMG_4013Our group convened Thursday morning and started our educational journey at the Churchill War Rooms. I found this interesting because my knowledge of WWII to this point has been mostly focused on FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower as leaders and heroes. Yet, being able to see where Churchill and his staff essentially lived during the Blitz and up until 1945 really was eye opening.  From the concrete slabs to the sirens, it was evident that the pressing threat of invasion dictated the structure, organization, and flow of everyday life in the war rooms. Additionally, we saw the childhood of Churchill and his life leading up to his involvement in the Allied war effort. The details of his life and the details of the war laid the foundation of the museum. Yet what I found to be the most stimulating was that the rooms were shut down and sealed in 1945 after the war. As the war ended, Churchill and his cabinet shut off the lights and left the building to go home, without looking back. It wasn’t until the 1970s that they were reopened and explored.


We were able to make a trip out to Bletchley Park, an old mansion that housed British intelligence and is the location of the cracking of the German ENIGMA codes. Understanding the history and strategic location of this once old farm (which is halfway between Oxford and Cambridge, yet easily accessible from London), on top of seeing actual ENGIMA machines and the Bombe, was “brilliant,” as the British would say. We were able to see how Alan Turing and the rest of the code crackers utilized mathematics and machinery to intercept messages and acquire intelligence on German movements. It was fascinating to find out that the 8,000 employees at Bletchley in 1945 never leaked the information they were developing.


Besides the tour of the HMS Belfast, the group spent the rest of the free time exploring as much of the city as we could. IMG_4119Getting the see Churchill War Rooms, Bletchley, and the Belfast coupled with Big Ben, Camden Market, and Shakespeare’s Globe made for a well-rounded, non-stop exploration of London.


We now prepare to depart from London to storm the beaches of Normandy.





24 hours

Hello all!

I’m Jenna and am posting my first entry in my blog from nowhere else but America. In less than 24 hours I will depart on my summer WWII History European adventures. Finals ended only a week ago today,but, it’s a great feeling knowing that our hard work will pay off in Europe in a matter of hours.  I’m sure the rest of my colleagues will agree with me that it seemed as if May 6th would never come.

I transferred to The Ohio State (the THE is just for you Professor Steigerwald) in January 2013 after spending a year and a half at The University of Akron. Currently, I am ending my third year as a Biology major. Additionally, I am a sister of Alpha Gamma Delta and am a pre-med student (and attempting to apply to medical school while abroad..yikes, wish me luck!). I can’t tell you how many people have been baffled by the fact that I chose to minor in History and become part of our WWII study abroad group. Despite my career aspirations, learning about WWII history has been an interest of mine since grade school. I found myself reading Holocaust accounts and researching information about Hitler and the Great War in my spare time. Compared to my right brained sister who would bring her Harry Potter novels and take pictures on the IMG_0174beach, I typically had my nose in books like Anne Frank’s diary or The Book Thief. Needless to say, I am not your typical academic student (but really, who is?).

Come tomorrow morning, our diverse group of fourteen students and two professors will be reunited in London after a week hiatus. Finally being able to see the places we have read and learned about will be beyond words; I’ll try to my best to keep everyone updated with our adventures!


Bon voyage for now, see you all on the other side of the world!


[Also , huge thanks to my much experienced traveler

 of sister for making me my own European guide!]