Germany and Austria

Germany and Austria

NATIONAL IDENTITY AND IMMIGRATION

What identity were Germans working so hard to protect in the years leading up to World War II? What is the legacy of the Holocaust in the national identity of Germany today? What is the power of ideals, of values, in galvanizing people towards a demagogue, towards a dominant ideology?

Itinerary

Throughout the program, we focus on the factors that contribute to national identity, like rituals, traditions, shared history, and paradoxically, by the idea of what a nation is not, and who they are not. Through different design exercises, we tease out a preliminary understanding of this identity as it compares to our own understandings back home.

We fly into Berlin, checking into our local hotel and freshening up before departing to explore the city!
We start by splitting into small groups undertaking a custom-designed Amazing Race that pushes students to develop a “sense of place” of the city through explorations and interactions with locals.
We close the day with an evening stroll through the famed Brandenburg Gate, taking in the nighttime transformation of Berlin.

We begin the day by indulging in Berlin’s culinary delights through a visit to the Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg, for the dedicated “Breakfast Market”. Well sated, we continue on a historical walking tour of Berlin, seeing the ‘living history’ of the various buildings, monuments, and markers that chart the rise of the Third Reich, the Cold War period, and reunification.

We continue on to the Templehof Airport, where the hangar has been transformed into temporary housing for refugees. These explorations help to build a better understanding of Germany’s place at the center of world events for the last century and continued importance today.

We have a nice breakfast at our hotel before transferring to the Reichstag building for a tour of the modern-day German Parliamentary building, the Bundestag. On a guided tour, we learn about the events leading up to the Reichstag fire and compare them with our a priori understandings of the events. Do they compare with the perspectives we were arriving with? Do they differ? How do we understand history if there can be variance in perspective between individual people and entire countries?
Afterwards, we have lunch and get into some ethical questions about the US’s responsibility at this moment in time. Then, we ease into a relaxed afternoon of exploration around Berlin.

This day will engage us with the topic of reconciliation. Bookended with our previous day of the early years before the war; our time in Nuremburg gives us context for the end of the war before exploring the time in between. How did we arrive at this end? What were the goals of these military tribunals? What would have been the most ethical way to try Nazis for war crimes?

We end the day with an evening musical performance and dinner, another lens into German culture at a moment when our focus has been on history

Having gained perspectives of pre- and post- World War II, we now leverage the hindsight of history to dive in to the events of the war, beginning at the Eagle’s Nest in Salzburg. We fly from Nuremburg into Salzburg, Austria on our fifth day of the program, crossing the border and arriving in to the city around lunchtime. From there, we head thirty minutes outside of the city for a tour of the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s hideout during the war that today has become a restaurant. We discuss the complexity of this beforehand, engaging our throughline of ‘memorialization’ and the legacy of place.

As the final pivotal experience on the program, a visit to a concentration camp is a worthwhile visit but one that must be carefully and intentionally scaffolded for students. The Why Go? ; and, How to go? questions are paramount. How do we approach such a site? How should we behave while we are there? What does it mean to see such a site not from pity and shame but from empathy and proclivity to action?
After the visit, we debrief with students and close the loop on the historical lens of the program, preparing for our final day looking into Germany as a nation today.

On our final full day on the program, we focus on the present, and lift our eyes towards the Germany we see today as we move about the city. How do people interact with each other? How do they celebrate? What sites are memorialized? We explore iconic landmarks of Munich, taste cuisine, try fun snacks, and explore winding ancient streets.
In the afternoon, we convene for a program closing workshop processing our experiences and making commitments for the future, before a program closing dinner