Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
My name is Julia Croyle, and this past semester I studied in Chambery, France. My travel grant project was created to strengthen my knowledge on the Holocaust because it has always been a topic of interest to me. Being an American, I have, for the most part, learned about the impact and role the Americans played in World War II and the Holocaust. Studying in France, I knew I had an opportunity to learn more about the Holocaust and the involvement of the French. In order to do so, I planned to travel to four different countries, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland, to further my knowledge. In these countries I visited locations, such as Anne Frank's house and the Warsaw Ghetto, museums, and two concentration camps.
In Amsterdam I visited Anne Frank's house. Her house was nothing like I had imagined. The rooms were empty, but in the middle of each room were miniature floor plans of how the room once looked. This museum possessed her three diaries, video footage of what life was like during the Holocaust, as well as other information about the people hiding with Anne Frank. At the end of the museum was a room addressing the topic of racism and inequality today. Another site I visited was the Warsaw Ghetto. Today the ghetto is not standing. It has been knocked down and transformed into a park, but the perimeter of the ghetto is outlined in stone. There is also a plaque dedicated to those who perished in the Holocaust.
On my travels I visited three museums, Le Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, France, the Memorium Nuremberg Trials in Nuremberg, Germany, the Wannsee Conference in Wannsee, Germany, and Oscar Schindler's Factory in Warsaw, Poland. Le Mémorial de la Shoah contained many original documents and had an informational exhibit on Adolf Eichmann, one of the Nazi's Holocaust coordinators. Another museum was The Memorium Nuremberg Trials, which was my favorite. It just opened and it is located above Courtroom 600 (the courtroom is famous for hosting the Nuremberg Trials). This museum contained original documents, video footage, and original parts of the courtroom. The third museum I visited was the Wannsee Conference, which was the conference the Nazis held to create the plans for the Final Extermination. The main room of the museum was the conference room, and it contained the original invitation to the meeting, as well as, biographies of the attendees and details of the meeting. Schindler's factory was the fourth museum I visited. It focused on Oscar Schindler himself, his company, and the people he saved. Each museum furthered my knowledge on different aspects of the war and the Holocaust.
The two concentration camps I visited, Buchenwald and Auschwitz, were very different from each other. Buchenwald was destroyed by the Nazis at the end of the war, so the only original parts of the camp still standing are the gates to the camp, one of the guard watchtowers, and the SS barracks that are now the Welcome Center and a youth hostel. Even though the camp was destroyed one can still make out the small sizes of the prisoners' barracks due to the foundations left behind. Auschwitz was much bigger and the majority of the buildings in both Auschwitz camps are still standing. Hallways of the buildings are lined with photos of the victims, and some rooms contained thousands of suitcases, hairbrushes, shoes, and eyeglasses that were seized when the prisoners arrived.
Even though visiting these sites were extremely overwhelming and depressing, I really enjoyed learning more from visiting. I am very grateful to have been a recipient of this grant because I was able to travel to far more places than I ever thought possible.