When Michael and I were sitting in a Dublin Pub together, a day before this trip started, I remember us both saying to each other that an entire month abroad seemed too long. We were worried that we would get worn out. But now, six countries later, a day before we go back home, I’d give anything to be sitting back in that Pub. Truly the time of our lives…so far.

Our last stop was Berlin Germany. We had become professionals abroad. Not even ten-hour bus rides, IBIS hotels, or Jon’s jokes could keep us down. The daily processes at this point had become routines. To me, I felt like this group could take on any country thrown at us. I felt like any country would feel familiar. Yet, keeping with the theme of each place having its own unique interpretations. Berlin too, didn’t feel the same as the others. Until Berlin we had spent the entirety of the trip looking at the war from the point of view of the victors. Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect in regard to what the Germans would say about the war. I didn’t know if they’d blame themselves and feel shame for it or interpret it in a different way. I came to find out that this is the intentionalist vs functionalist perspective and the Germans have been debating it for some time.

With functionalism, the Germans claim that the Holocaust and other subsequent German actions during the war was a by-product of much smaller decisions. Eventually, over time, the consequences of decision making led the Holocaust to happen. Almost like a sequence of dominoes. In contrast, intentionalist claims that the Holocaust was entirely a product of Hitler’s madness and that the German people should not be held accountable for one man’s actions. At the Wannsee House, where the plan of the final solution was said to have been agreed upon by top Nazi officials, Katie explained to us the difference between the two and what exactly she believed. Like Katie, I don’t think that the German interpretation is exactly one form or the other. On one hand, Hitler should hold much of the blame for the acceleration of the hate. But, I don’t think you can say that every single German citizen shouldn’t be held accountable.  There were those who followed the cause wholeheartedly, as well as those who wanted nothing to do with Hitler. In reality, citizens had little choice. Therefore, I feel as though the German interpretation is a good mix of intentionalist and functionalist perspectives.

With these thoughts in mind, we also visited the Claus von Stauffenberg Memorial and German resistance museum. But, as the museum would explain there really wasn’t such a thing as German resistance. Claus and his crew ran the most recognizable act of resistance during the war. They were responsible for the attempt on Hitler’s life with a briefcase bomb in the summer of 1944. From there they would have staged a coup and proposed a surrender with the Western Allies. Stauffenberg lost the support of Hitler once he witnessed the hated Hitler had preached in the front. This was a huge feat to accomplish. These resistance fighters gained a lot of publicity, yet the actual size of the German resistance was a couple hundred people. Miniscule in comparison to say the French resistance. Like I said, the German people didn’t really have much of a choice of whether to follow Hitler. I understand how the intentionalist argument gets a lot of light, but that being said, you would expect the resistance to be larger if Hitler is supposed to get all the blame.

Some of our last stops were at the Soviet Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Both of these memorials I found captivating. The Soviet memorial to me illustrated triumph and Humiliation of the Nazis all while commemorating Remembrance of all the Soviets who died taking the city. The Holocaust Memorial illustrated loss by having tight corridors and uneven elevated surfaces. These were supposed to illustrate how easily someone can come in and out of your life. When you walk through the memorial no same person can walk with you the whole way. Both these memorials were necessary inside Berlin. Too many were victims of the Nazis.


So, this is it, we made it. The last dinner with everyone inside the Sony Center was the perfect way to end. As I told Michael, it felt like every one of us had just started to become incredibly close just at the trip’s conclusion. Like I said before I’d give a lot to be sitting back in that Dublin Pub with the mindset I have now. But, I won’t look at it like that. This trip above all else not only created great memories, but gives the opportunities to continue creating them.

Poland and the Bloodlands


As soon as the plane landed I could tell that Krakow wouldn’t feel the same as the other cities. The buildings and cars inside the city epitomize Eastern Europe. The city is quiet, even if there are 800,000 people living in Krakow you’d never be able to tell. The streets were empty most of the time and the local restaurants were never filled up. What stood out to me the most about Krakow simply from just observing was that the city felt…sad. It is no question that Poland as a country has been victimized for centuries and the country carries a very sad and depressing history with it. In Krakow, the city was a victim of two harsh occupations and lost many of its Jewish residents during the war. I felt that in the city the painful memories of this part of Krakow’s history still exist. In the Jewish sector, I met a street vendor selling Nazi memorabilia no less than thirty feet from a victimized Jewish family’s home. I can’t tell if it’s that Krakow citizens choose to ignore what happened during the war, or if they have just accepted that they can’t escape it and want to move on. Or maybe it was just one ignorant street vendor and I shouldn’t generalize.

Our first stop was the Oskar Schindler Museum. Today the museum is in the same factory where Schindler saved 1,200 Jews during the war by allowing them to work in his factory. Schindler kept his Jewish workers better fed and protected them from Gestapo raids. The museum wasn’t entirely what I expected. It focused on how Jews were treated pre-war, during the war, and during the Soviet occupation. The exhibitions were very in your face with Nazi propaganda and Jewish suffering. Seeing the prison cells and learning of torture methods the Nazis used was incredibly unsettling. I don’t do well in these places, I usually have to step away from the exhibits for a few moments to clear my head. This museum does its job to make you understand how significant Schindlers contribution to their survival was, and just how lucky they were. However, as we’ve discussed throughout the trip, museums typically are biased and put exactly what they want the audience to see in the light. This museum didn’t have anything on Polish collaboration with the Nazis inside the museum. This made me frustrated because it was an obvious attempt to not make Poland look bad by covering up a dark piece of history. However, this vice aside the museum does a good job of illustrating Schindlers contribution.

On Wednesday, we went to Auschwitz. Honestly one of the smartest things I did on this trip was not have any expectations for the camp before going. This ensured I became overwhelmed.  The only mental Picture I had from the camp was from Schindler’s list and the same popular photos inside the camp. But even looking at the infamous “Work will set you free” gate was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. The camp resembled a factory. Rows upon rows of barracks, barbed wire and gun towers illustrate plain and simple what exactly went on here.  I never thought I’d stand inside one of the Gas chambers either. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, for the majority of the time I was inside, I couldn’t believe it. To stand in the same room where thousands were murdered was like a bad dream. But, I realize now more than ever having seen it first hand, how important it is for humanity to look at its dark history to not repeat it. However, the situation really didn’t get grim until we went over to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. This was the true Jewish extermination center. It was a massive field situated in front of two massive crematoriums. It resembled a cattle farm situated in front of a slaughterhouse. I couldn’t get over just how mechanized and factory like the Nazis made this process. After touring Birkenau, we went outside the perimeter to listen to both Jon and Nicole’s insightful site reports about Jewish Transportations to the camp as well as Primo Levi’s personal story of survival in the camp. Having read Levi’s story myself previously, hearing the details a second time around was just as unsettling a second time. Both were solid reports, which isn’t an easy feat to accomplish after a day like we had. Everyone was quiet that night, as I expected. Poland wasn’t an easy place to feel good spirited.

After action from France

Over the course of the trip, it has become clear that each country we visit has its own unique themes in regard to their WWII history. In London, the city felt victorious. Its monuments and memorials of WWII were proud and invigorating. When visiting the sites or even walking through the streets London enveloped pride in its people and the cause towards victory. Here in France, the theme is not the same.

After visiting Pointe du hoc, as well as Utah and Omaha beaches, the monuments don’t display French national pride. Here, of course, the monuments and memorials are dedicated heavily to American and British infantry divisions who did their parts on D-Day. Along Pointe du Hoc and the beaches, you’ll find the memorials dedicated to the 2nd rangers, the 1st infantry, the 29th infantry, the 4th infantry and even the 101st Airborne Division. The 2nd Rangers have a statue of a dagger in the rocks on top of the hill commemorating their bravery. Whereas the 1st, 29th, and 4th infantry divisions have memorials displaying their creeds at Omaha and Utah beach. We even got the chance to see the memorial to Cpt. Richard Winters of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division a short drive behind Utah beach. But we never came across any memorials to the French. Logically, it’s because they didn’t play as significant a role in the invasion as their Allies. But my point is that if there were any French memorials or monuments they were most certainly overshadowed by all those commemorated to its Allies.

Even the museums were flooded with American and British memorabilia. In fact, many if not most were American museums on French soil. The only hint of French pride was inside the American cemetery where there was an exhibit on a French infantry division who landed with the British at Sword beach. The American and British cemeteries were sprawling beautiful commemorations to their dead at D-Day. I saw them as massive commemorations from France to its liberators. What better way to honor your Allies than to commemorate those who sacrificed everything forever on French soil.  In Paris, the theme was very much the same. Besides the movie to De Gaulle which was just ridiculous. But again, there weren’t huge monuments or memorials to see that screamed victory over the Nazis or at least none that I saw. Paris was actually rather quiet. We even visited the Shakespeare and company which was an American bookstore during the war effort and enjoyed Patrick’s lecture on Americans in Paris. At the end of the day, this big city, unlike London, didn’t feel as proud in victory.

It was eye opening to come from a city where confidence in victory was so openly displayed around the town to a place or places where the tone is shifted from confidence and pride to respect and gratuity.  The French above all else show their respect to their liberators at both the beaches and in Paris. Here in France,

memorial to killed infantry inside American memorial cemetery Omaha beach

British cemetery

you won’t hear citizens remarking how France was triumphant after heavy fighting or lost too many of their men at the beaches. But what I did see and hear, was gratitude. I was in a bar in Bayeux where I met several French guys drinking and hanging out and after they realized I didn’t have an accent I told them I was American studying WWII in Europe.  All three of them turned to me and said “American! Hey you saved, us back then!” Of course, we were joking around, nor did I take it literally but even still, from its memorials to its people France most definitely respects its allies in the war.

The war in London

Taking a tour of Green park was my first taste of London’s culture. In Green park, the Britons have erected monuments commemorating the soldiers of nations under the crown who gave their lives for Britain. They are beautiful monuments which Illustrate just how much the British respect and revere their Allies. But once we visited the classic sites of Bletchley park and the Churchill war rooms, it was easy to see that the British are firm believers in the people’s war. Britain respects her own people who committed to the war effort just as much as its allies nations during the war effort.

The Churchill war rooms illustrate the people’s war. To the British, Churchill was their ultimate role model. The war rooms show that Churchill did his all to embody the inspiration the British needed for the war effort. Churchill fought hard to stay above ground and not show weakness in front of the British people. Even when he was forced to go below ground he felt remorseful. The War-rooms even stated that Churchill participated in the rationing and other restrictions just as the common people did. Churchill did exactly what he needed to do for the British people by embodying the leader they needed to rally behind.

At Bletchley park, we got a first-hand look at the mission undertaken by the British people to provide covert intelligence. Bletchley commemorates individuals like Alan Turing and the many women who committed their efforts to the people’s war. I didn’t know anything about Bletchley park before visiting the site but it was amazing to see the commitment of these individuals.Back home, Bletchley Park was made out to be the work of one man, Alan Turing. The story was that basically Turing alone had cracked the enigma code single-handedly. While I believe that Turing certainly is a hero, he didn’t do all this work alone. All the citizens who made the ten-mile bike ride to work in order to contribute like Turing deserve credit too. The people’s war or the collective effort of the citizens is perfectly embodied in Bletchley Park.

One of our last stops was the Imperial war museum. Which I enjoyed. However, I was disappointed because of the lack of WWII exhibits. The definite focus of the museum was in WWI. I will say that the WWI exhibit was terrific but it’s not the conflict we have come to study. The WWII section was very typical of other military museums. Many photos of destroyed cities, collections of rubble, a tank or two. But ultimately it was underwhelming. This museum didn’t convey a deep enough message about the people’s war as I would have liked. But, that being noted, I can’t take away from this museums holocaust floor. It was the first time in a long time when studying this material that I was REALLY taken aback. The holocaust is always difficult to study, however, this museum’s model of Auschwitz and the videos of live executions were too much to take in. I found myself rushing out towards the back end of the exhibit to get some air.

In London, I observed a theme of camaraderie. The memorials portray camaraderie among Britain’s soldiers and it’s civilians who did their part in WWII. But, what was interesting to me was that the theme of camaraderie carried over to London’s citizens today. In the pubs, strangers act like families. In the street, people are always eager to help. The people of this country respect this war and those who did their duties. London represents the People’s War, I’m ready to experience what the rest of our trip has in store.  

Memorial to canada. Cant get it to rotate.



My name is Kevin Roberts. Rising Third-year student studying Political science.  I’ll try to have something witty to say for each city we go to. No guarantees.