Two Overnight excursions to Terezín&Auschwitz and Munich&Dachau - The Holocaust in the Films and Literature of Arnošt Lustig
Students of The Holocaust in the Films and Literature of Arnošt Lustig course, along with their Professor Josef (Pepi) Lustig, had a unique opportunity to travel and participate in specially designed overnight class excursions. Some of them have shared their trip experience with us.
'The best experience of Pepi Lustig’s class was the excursion in Munich, to the Dachau Concentration Camp. This experience was the most touching because it was the first trip we went on as a group, so we really got to bond as a class and with Professor Lustig. His knowledge about the history of the Holocaust is unlimited, and it was an honor to listen to him speak about Dachau and the atrocities committed there. All excursions were especially touching because our class truly got a different view of the Holocaust and the camps, which is why I think this class is so special and important.' - Gabriella Hagedorn, DePauw University
The first overnight excursion was to Munich and Dachau. The group of students visited Munich as the first stop of the excursion and had a guided tour of the historical Nazi parts of the city. The guide was very well prepared with multiple documents, pictures and maps which all helped students have an even better experience of visiting the historical places. A part of the excursion was also a visit of the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism documenting and addressing the crimes of the Nazi dictatorship and their origins, manifestations and consequences right up to the present day. On the following day, the group led by professor Lustig visited the first concentration camp at Dachau. The Nazi government started the first concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, in March of 1933. It has been renovated and preserved as a memorial to those who suffered and died there between 1933 and its liberation in 1945. Dachau initially housed political prisoners; however, it eventually evolved into a death camp where thousands of Jews died from malnutrition, disease and overwork or were executed.
Upon arriving in Dachau, the group was faced with weather that was all too fitting for the events that took place there in the past: with a fog so thick you could not see the building the group was walking to, cool breeze and sky so gloomy one could not help but feel the despair that still lingered in the air. Nevertheless, the students appreciated this weather even more since it gave them a very real glimpse into the suffering of the inmates that were once imprisoned there.
The second overnight excursion to Terezín and Auschwitz was pretty impressive as well. Students gained even more in depth knowledge about the Terezín work camp during a discussion with the Professor and also his aunt (on the day following the excursion). The next day in Auschwitz was full of moving adventures, from a visit of the Auschwitz concentration camp (where Professor Lustig's father himself was imprisoned for several years), walking around the Nazi Party headquarters to the visit of the concentration/extermination camp at Birkenau.
As students have said, visiting Dachau, Terezín and Auschwitz was an eye-opening experience in so many ways. For instance, Mrs. Hanna (Professor Lustig's aunt) provided our students with countless invaluable insights into what life in the camp was actually like since she had to endure the horrors of life in the camp herself. It is indispensable to visit the sites where these crimes against humanity were committed in order to understand the full extent of the Holocaust. All excursions with professor Lustig were a powerful experience.
During the first weeks of Spring 2018 students' stay in the Czech Republic, CIEE Prague staff organized various different activities which enabled students to familiarize themselves with Czech culture, as it is crucial for students to learn about their host country so that they feel and can adapt better in terms of the culture shock.
Students had the opportunity to learn more about the Czech Republic in two lectures delivered by CIEE professors which were held during the on-site Orientation - Czech History Intro and Czech Republic Inside Out. Both of these lectures provided our students with the necessary background information in terms of Czech history and culture. For many students it was actually their very first time hearing about the creation of our country and our unique traditions and customs.
CIEE Prague staff also prepared an exceptional interactive competition for its students, as part of which they had the chance to test their knowledge related to the Czech Republic. An online orientation quiz was published at the end of the first week and students could compete against each other in terms of the facts covered during the Orientation. The winners received unique goodie bags full of Czech sweets and souvenirs.
1st place – Klea Kalia (Barnard College)
2nd place – Mary Koontz (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
3rd place – Sam Rosenthal (Ursinus College)
Another way of introducing students to the Czech Republic was through an active exploration. At the end of the second week of the on-site Orientation day excursions outside Prague, as part of which students visited other regions of the country, were organized. The Czech Republic is often called the "land of castles" since it has the most castles and chateaus per square mile in the world. It is something that Czechs are very proud of and they enjoy spending their free time visiting these spectacular buildings. On the other hand, breweries and beer industry in general are key constituents of the Czech economy and beer itself plays an important part in Czech culture as well. During the day excursions students thus visited one of our beautiful castles and also had a tour of a local brewery. During the castle tours, they learned how the aristocrats lived in the past and also discovered how beer is made and what role it plays in the Czech economy. There were two different destinations students could choose from - the Sychrov Castle and the Svijany Brewery or the Křivoklát Castle and the Krušovice Brewery.
A lot more activities enabling students to learn more about the Czech Republic will be organized during the semester and CIEE Prague truly believes that students will consider the Czech Republic to be their second home by the end of their study abroad adventure.
CES, CNMJ, FS and GAD program students, along with Eva and Zuzana, all had a unique opportunity to participate in extraordinary extracurricular excursions at the beginning of the semester. CIEE Prague staff came up with two brand new destinations for the Fall'17 semester.
The first excursion was an overnight one focused on the Moravia region. The objective of this trip was to explore the Moravian culture and to learn about its traditions and customs by visiting multiple interesting places.
The first stop on this trip was the magnificent and largest karst area in Central Europe – the Moravian Karst. The group walked through the caves leading to the famous Macocha Abyss, some 452ft deep gorge surrounded by eerie myths and legends. The tour then continued to the Punkva Caves, where the group sailed along the subterranean river Punkva. The Moravian Karst is, without any doubt, one of the Czech Republic's natural wonders which will wow every visitor. Many students mentioned the Moravian Karst as the highlight of the trip in the excursion feedbacks. Later on, after having tasted local dishes, the group of students and trip leaders were transported to Mikulov, one of the most beautiful towns in the Moravia region.
The historical town of Mikulov is located in the south of Moravia, just a few kilometers away from Brno near the Czech-Austrian border. Located on the Palava hills and surrounded by vineyards, it is well-known for wine tasting. Since wine-growing and wine-making are essential elements of Czech culture, the group was introduced to different types of wine and nibbles that go with wine-tasting by a professional wine connoisseur in the evening.
Fall in the Czech Republic is a very colorful and beautiful season (if it isn’t raining, of course). Although it rained during our second day in Mikulov, the students still enjoyed the Mikulov guided tour very much.
The group then visited one of Europe's most remarkable – the Lednice chateau, built in the English Neo-Gothic style. The chateau tour was a great experience, especially thanks to the guide. The Lednice chateau is not only about the splendid interiors and architecture, but the French-style garden with its palm tree greenhouse, the Masonic wall and the chateau grounds freely blending into the open countryside are also worth a look.
Excursion to Bohemian Switzerland
The other brand new excursion was a hike to the Pravčická Brána. This excursion was the most successful one out of all Fall'17 excursions – a waitlist for students who did not manage to sign up on time actually had to be created due to the immense interest. Despite the bad weather at the departure from Prague, everyone was full of hope that it would be sunny in the Bohemian Switzerland region, which it was when the group arrived at the destination.
Since the excursion was actually a hike, it allowed us to explore more than just the Pravčická Brána, since the region offers a lot more landmarks and beautiful views. Having put on our hiking shoes, we set off on the marked trails to explore more of the region's beauty. We passed the romantic Hřensko gorges and the Gabriela's Trail, where you can see unusual sandstone rock formations.
The Pravčická Brána indeed has a fairytale atmosphere, which is evidenced by the fact that the famous Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen wrote part of his “Snow Queen” fairytale here. The landmark has also charmed Holywood filmmakers, as several scenes of the Narnia Chronicles were shot here.
I spent this weekend in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, with my classmates and professor. Interestingly enough, while Prague is historically a Bohemian city, Brno is Moravian. Before the area became known as the Czech Republic, and even before it was combined with Slovak lands as Czechoslovakia, the region was divided into three: Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia.
There was no better way to gain an intercultural understanding than traveling to another area within the country. Since I am taking an anthropology course, this was especially important to my academic experience abroad. Instead of a guided tour of typical tourist attractions of the city, Brno residents showed us places where locals frequent. It was refreshing to explore a new place without feeling like a generic tourist. Stops of the tour included different cafés that specialized in Turkish coffee, soup, and fair trade food. Needless to say, I was impressed.
On Saturday afternoon, we walked over to Brno’s Romany district for the third annual Ghettofest, a street festival to celebrate Romany music, theater, film, dance, and discussions. This year, one of the objectives of the festival was to attract and engage people outside of Brno to the city. Our class listened to an entire set of a singer/songwriter, followed by a performance of traditional Romany dance.
CIEE Prague programs offer plenty of trips and excursions, so we would like to focus this newsletter on these.
Central European Studies (CES)
CES academic trips are an inseparable part of the academic experience in Prague, as well as an inseparable part of the courses themselves. Each student has to go on at least 2 academic trips per semester. CIEE offers some 20 trips to various destinations, all accompanied by teaching faculty and CIEE staff and all carefully chosen to help the students better comprehend the course topics and to provide them as much cultural immersion opportunities as possible. We offer one-day trips as well as overnight trips and show the evidence of history, the communist legacy and the transformation of the Czech society into a democratic member of the EU with its current social and economic challenges. Students can also choose from a variety of cultural sites important to historical events, literature courses, art and architecture or even current environmental issues.
The trips provide students a unique opportunity to explore sites outside of Prague, such as concentration camps and historical Jewish ghettos, which are connected to history courses and Judaism, as well as to courses focusing on psychoanalysis – e.g., understanding Nazi propaganda and the cult of Hitler.Students also have a unique opportunity to have a deeper understanding of human rights, national identity and sociopolitical issues by visiting socially excluded localities and discussing it with local NGO and governmental representatives. In order to explore the communist past of the Czech Republic, students can visit and learn about the communist regime, the political persecution of that authoritarian regime by visiting former work camps with former political prisoners. Dealing with the outcomes of communist environmental policies, students learn about rural landscape changes. Last but not least, there are trips connected to a cultural immersive experience, where students have the chance to spend Easter in a village with a local family and to practice traditional (quite unique) Czech Easter customs.
Many trips and sites are so popular that they are run more than 4 times during the semester. A large number of students want to go to more destinations - beyond the CIEE academic mandatory requirement of taking part in 2 trips. Some trips maintain throughout semesters 100% positive feedbacks, and according to the students is one of the highlights of their experience in CIEE Prague’s program.
Film Studies (FS)
Despite of the fact that Film Studies students are especially busy throughout the semester, CIEE Prague believes that studying abroad is about outclass academic exploration as well. Therefore we offer a number of excursions and trips designed specifically for the FS program.
Barrandov Film Studios excursion
On Friday, February 14th, FS Coordinator Ivana took students for a tour to the famous Barrandov Film Studios. As every semester, students not only got to visit the props, furniture and costumes department, but also some representational premises for filmmakers, a stage set of Tudors show and postproduction labs were seen. Furthermore, we got access to two film ateliers with shooting in progress, so students had a blast taking pictures in a train where Donald Sutherland acted in Crossing Lines (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_Lines). As always, a yummy lunch was provided. But let us share student feedback from this excursion:
“Barrandov was truly amazing. It was so interesting and I felt like I learned a lot. I loved this excursion.”
“BEST TRIP EVER. The day was pretty exhausting, but overall it was a fantastic visit. It is a opportunity to visit the Barrandov Studios where such famous people have walked the halls. I liked the extra bit of tour that we got, thanks to Ivana. Hopefully I will be back there again one day making my own film! The lunch was fantastic, also.”
“I really enjoyed it! It was laid back enough so we could really soak it up, and we got to see a lot of the studios. The most interesting part was seeing the costumes and props. I also really, really appreciated the donuts given to us in the morning.”photo courtesy of Jonáš Klimeš
photo courtesy of Katie Ratcliffe
Hafan Animation Studio workshop
On Saturday and Sunday, March 1st-2nd, students split into 2 groups and each spent a whole day in Prague’s Hafan animation studio. They created traditional animated short film and had a blast!
photo courtesy of Beth Winchester
Video animation students made together in 2 days
Karel Zeman Museum of Special Effects
On Monday, March 24th, CIEE 2nd cultural workshop was planned. We decided to connect it with an excursion to Karel Zeman Museum of Special Effects (http://www.muzeumkarlazemana.cz/en) which students enjoyed immensely.
video courtesy of Andie Eikenberg on a Moon rose, photo courtesy of Katie Ratcliffe
After the excursion, we continued to Dobrá Trafika, an underground coffee place which looks like a simple news stand at first. Over a coffee/yummy milk shakes and cakes, academic, professional, social and interpersonal goals that students set for themselves during the orientation were discussed. And it was time for more fun too - students tested their knowledge of Greatest Czechs in a memory game and they all did quite good!
But hear it in their own words:
“Cool, interesting, creative excursion + great gift shop! Workshop was a nice activity - glad I knew more Czechs than I thought!“
„Very interesting and reminded me of a set on a George Méliès film.“
Overnight trip to Moravia - workshop in Olomouc, Palacký University, Audiovisual department
The weekend of March 28-30, FS Program Coordinator Ivana and Program Coordinator Eva took students on a weekend excursion to the Moravian Region. The trip started in the city of Olomouc, a UNESCO heritage site- a local guide gave us a tour of the city center. After a yummy lunch we continued to Palacký University to join local students in the Audiovisual Department for a student television workshop. Students were given a simply task: introduce the city. You can see the result here:
After the workshop, local students took CIEE Film Studies group to a local restaurant and they enjoyed an evening together, exploring the city independently.
Photo courtesy of John Kim
On Saturday, the whole group transfered to Uherské Hradiště, where a summer film festival is held annually. We checked in to Hotel Koníček, had lunch and continued to Vlčnov village, famous for its „Ride of the Kings“ (http://www.czechtourism.com/c/unesco-jizda-kralu/). After visiting a Home Distillery Museum (part of The Museum of Moravian Slovakia), we were invited to a local home by a Vlčnov family. Moravians are known for their hospitality and they truly confirmed this reputation of theirs. Mr. Mikulec told us about the Slivovitz distilling process and his wife surprised us with yummy Moravian kolatche and traditional Czech party sandwiches.
Photo courtesy of John Kim
After this unique experience, we return back to Uherské Hradiště. Students were given couple of hours of free time to explore on their own and we met again for dinner. The local wine cellar visit followed.
On Sunday morning, we had a last site to visit: Moravian Karst with Punkva caves and the deepest gorge in the Czech lands: Macocha. Students were quite excited particularly due to the short train ride followed by a boat ride in the underground caves.
Photo courtesy of John Kim
More information from students perspectives can be found in FS blog (http://study-abroad-blog-prague-fs.ciee.org/).
Communication, New Media + Journalism (CNMJ)
Overnight trip to Brno
During a beautiful spring weekend in March, CNMJ Program students headed to Brno and other spots in Moravia with Amanda, Communication Program Coordinator. Our goal was to learn more about the media landscape in the Czech Republic and all by meeting local students and attending the human rights documentary film festival, One World (insert link: http://www.oneworld.cz/2014/ ).
Once we arrived to Brno on Friday, we stopped by Radio R at Masaryk University, Department of Media Studies and Journalism. Radio R is a very successful student-run radio station with over 100 volunteer moderators. They broadcast a variety of original programs covering politics, alternative music, and cultural events in and around Brno. CNMJ students not only had a discussion with student broadcasters, but also got to broadcast live themselves!
After our exciting live radio stint, we continued on with Radio R students and with hungry bellies to Výtopna Restaurant. Students were told there would be a surprise there. Výtopna is special thanks to a mini train which brings restaurant-goers their drinks! Surprise!
Our evenings in Brno were dedicated to the One World Film Festival, which is put on by the non-profit People in Need (in fact, we have one CNMJ intern working in their Media Department this semester). On Friday we saw The Great Night (insert link: http://www.oneworld.cz/2014/films-a-z/25305-the-great-night), which won the award for Best Czech Documentary at Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival last year. On Saturday, we saw a much more light-hearted film called, Everything is Possible (insert trailer?) about an 80 year-old Polish woman who backpacks around the world.
On Saturday we decided to explore the Moravian countryside and hung out in the village of Velké Bílovice. With 800 hectares of vineyards, it makes up the largest wine territory in the Czech Republic. So naturally after lunch, we walked through the village, greeting locals in Czech on our way, and ended up at a family wine cellar. After a short crash course in the ways of wine tasting, students were given several local samples to taste.
Our last stop on Sunday before heading back to Prague was Moravian Karst (insert link: http://www.moravskykras.net/en/moravian-karst.html ). We enjoyed a tour of the caves, which included not only the impressive Macocha Abyss (the largest such gorge in Central Europe), but also a boat ride through the last part of the caves.
Students had a great time! For more on this trip from a student’s perspective, please visit our CNMJ blog:
The very first academic trip for the Global AD program was planned to be only a few weeks after the student’s arrival so they could bond and get to know Adam Vukmanov, the ARCHIP Academic Coordinator, Petra, the CIEE Global AD Coordinator and other members of the ARCHIP faculty while traveling through beautiful sites of central and southern Bohemia.
The plan was to follow Vltava river cascades, starting at Lipno, which is very important hydro power plant built to protect the UNESCO site Český Krumlov and other towns and villages nearby from floods; we stayed atHluboká nad Vltavou, a beautiful little town close to Lipno and continued on the next day with touring 3 other dams – Hněvkovice, Orlík and Slapy.
Global AD program connects 3 European cities – Barcelona, Berlin and Prague. Students from all three cities were invited to participate in the Berlin Summit and aside from many other interesting things, to present what they have been working on so far. From March 26 to March 28, CIEE Berlin hosted students from Prague and Barcelona. It was a huge success and students left more educated, connected and satisfied with their achievements. Which city will host next? :)
On April 10, during the academic workshop lead by Alessio Erioli, an engineer and senior researcher at Università di Bologna, Petra took the group to a traditional Czech restaurant for a second cultural workshop. Alessio joined them as well. Aside from the amazing food and drinks, they all tested their knowleadge of Czech culture, especially what they knew of famous Czech people. Well, they still have a bit to learn. :)
Construction Site Visit
On April 11, the students, Adam and Petra visited basic construction sites in Prague that were in different stages of the process. It was a lot of fun and not only because we got to wear hard hats. We got a chance to see how different designing and building is in the Czech Republic and learn a lot about the specific constructions from top to bottom. Both were office buildings built by different companies.