Unique Aspects of Germany’s WWII Remembrance

As the main perpetrators of WWII, Germans have very little to commemorate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t remember. Throughout our time in Berlin, we observed much that remained relatively untouched from those years. Five minutes from our hotel stand the remnants of one of the busiest train stations in the world. The German Reichstag building, currently home of nation’s parliament, still has bullet holes visible from the notorious Battle of Berlin. Without even knowing it, passersby bear witness to German history. Germany’s recollection of World War II is exhibited through historical preservation. 

New installations to recall the past have been erected as well. For example, artworks scattered throughout the Reichstag remember the excesses of the Nazi party’s history.  One piece, designed by French artist Christian Bolkanski, depicts the names of all the members of German parliament. Located in one of the building’s hallways, the piece takes the

Black box signifying no free elections throughout the country

visitor through a tunnel composed of boxes, each featuring the name of a parliament member. The halfway mark displays  the members of the Nazi Party and a black box signifying the absence of free elections within the country from 1933-1945. As I began walking through “Archive of German Members of Parliament,” I expected this period of German history to be absent, but its presence in many ways was the point. This art piece beautifully summarizes Germany’s understanding of the war. There is a need to remember the past, but sometimes that remembrance is equivalent to a name on a box. 

The Importance of Historical Preservation Throughout Poland

The two sites we visited in Poland, Auschwitz-Birkenau and The Krakow Museum, illustrated the devastation World War II inflicted on the country. It’s impossible to describe the emotional toll of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau. Every step through the grounds weighs on you. While walking through the gas chambers and crematorium, anything but silence seems disrespectful as those four gray walls signified death for tens of thousands. The uncommon silence among my colleagues on the ten-minute bus ride between the camps showed that everyone felt the gravity of this site. One reason Auschwitz-Birkenau evokes such strong emotions is its historical preservation. With many original buildings still standing at Auschwitz I, the purpose of its construction remains evident. The high electrical fences, public gallows, and the infamous Block 11 death wall cement the reality of the Holocaust, which no class discussion ever truly does. After visiting the camp, I understood why successful-escape stories were rare. To give context to the camp’s powerful physical presence, a guided tour detailed all members of society, such as Poles, Roma, and homosexuals condemned to life – death — in the camp and emphasized the importance of preserving important historical sites for their memory. 

Walking into Auschwitz I


The Krakow Museum, which is situated within the old workplace of Oskar Schindler, presented information regarding the war’s effect on the city of Krakow. The museum occupied the building of a former government office, a space never intended to house grand historical exhibits, but I felt as if this element added to the museum’s effectiveness. The narrow hallways and intricately designed displays force the viewer to travel through the stages of the war. I genuinely enjoyed the layout of the site, but its emphasis on Krakow’s war experience limits its applicability to the entirety of Poland. The exhibits highlight the mistreatment of Krakow’s Poles and Jews, but there is no reflection on the anti-semitism prevalent throughout the country’s history. Although the museum provides an engaging account of the war in Krakow, it runs the risk of over-generalizing information about Krakow for less informed visitors, who might be led to assume that all Poles experienced a similar war.  

Cross found in the wreckage in Krakow


The Leisurely Pace Present in French Culture

Throughout our time in Bayeux, I began to take note of the interesting behavior among the shop and restaurant owners. There were moments when a group of us attempted to grab dinner but random hourly closing made this quite difficult. One crepe place closed at 4pm while a pizza parlor didn’t open till 8pm. As the quest for French dining grew futile, we regularly relied on the local grocery store for DIY sandwiches and tasty pesto mozzarella chips. The chips became a prominent staple of our diet that by the end of our stay one lonely bag remained on the store’s shelf.   Just through this one French town, I began to understand particular aspects of French culture. People seemed to move at their own pace. On our last evening in Paris, we grabbed dinner at Aux Artistes, which featured homestyle French dishes. The meal lasted over three hours but time never seemed to be an issue. 

The infamous pesto mozzarella chips


The slow-paced, personally oriented culture of France made American civilization seem like a madhouse. Normally people strived to find aspects of their home culture throughout the places they travel, but I had found myself falling in love with parts that are absent from my own. A three hour dinner in the United States signifies an inadequately executed order or an understaffed restaurant. The quick customer turnover rate stems from the monetary motivations of American restaurants. American waiters attempt to accrue significant tips by serving substantially more tables when compared to their European counterparts. Our three hour dinner in Paris functioned as a pleasant hiatus from the rushed environment present in a majority of American restaurants. 


Aux Artistes

The Rare Presence of Objectivity in National Museums

Since Great Britain functioned as a major power in World War II, the abundance of World War II museums throughout the nation came as no surprise. Throughout our stay in London, our group visited the Imperial War Museum and Bletchley Park. A common theme among the sites listed was their praise for the common Brit. Similar to museums around the world, Great Britain’s museums had one predictable characteristic: overt nationalism.

Anecdote about an artifact from the Imperial War Museum

National bias surged throughout the exhibits of Bletchley Park, which functioned as the center of British intelligence during the war. For example, one exhibit discussed the involvement of intelligence in turning of the tide of the Atlantic war. The texts examined how intelligence from Bletchley Park identified the location of German U-boat wo

Inside the headquarters at Bletchley Park

lf packs, which in turn affected the packs’ efficiency as the Allies zoned in on their coordinates. This exhibit praised the work of British intelligence but never mentioned the occurrences where intelligence from Bletchley remained indifferent in situational outcomes. As historical knowledge continued improving, museum exhibits included critical interpretations of national histories.


Although the museum never completely renounced injustices committed in the British colonies, the Imperial War Museum told an accurate narrative of Britain’s reliance on these colonies during the war. The exhibit centered on the concept that Britain was “never truly alone.” It discussed the importance of the colonies in resource generation and providing troops for wars in the Pacific, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. Although this was not critical of the atrocities committed by the British empire, it challenged the nationalistic notion that Britain survived the war on the strength of solely mainland citizens. 

Mansion at Bletchley Park used as headquarters for intelligence operations