The Holocaust study tour is an educational tour that motivates, challenges, and engages students to rethink one of the most critical and horrific events in history. Traveling through Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland, students significantly connect to the Holocaust, by making meaningful and accurate cultural connections to the people and nations they visit.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Day 4 - Dresden, Germany
This morning we loaded our
suitcases onto the bus and began our two and a half hour drive to the
town of Dresden. Last year was the first year we had stopped in
Dresden, as in prior years we had traveled by train from Berlin to
Prague, and we loved the city and decided to make this a regular
visit. As we entered the city, Olaf told us that Dresden, which
means “the people living next to the forest”, was a traditional
medieval city, first mentioned in 1206, and was the capital of the
principality of Saxonia, now the state of Saxony. Dresden has a
population of about 500,000 and is famous for its Christmas market,
the historic young men’s choir, Cross Choir, dating back to 1300,
and is the city where the first European porcelain was manufactured.
learned that in February 1945, shortly before the end of the war, the
Allies (Britain and the United States) bombed Dresden reducing almost
everything in the city to rubble. Why did the Allies decide to do
this so late in the war when it was already apparent that Germany was
eventually going to lose the war? Partly in retaliation for the
German bombing of the British city of Coventry, we were told, but
also, as Shalmi would later tell us, to break the German spirit,
inasmuch as the city was so symbolic to the Germans. Most Dresden
residents, Olaf would tell us, felt that this was an unnecessary
measure of war and was purely an act of revenge. After the war, the
city of Dresden was rebuilt as closely as possible to what had
existed before the bombing, including the historic buildings. In the
square, Olaf showed us a picture of a portion of the city of Dresden,
showing almost total destruction.
We had learned from Olaf
that Germany now has 16 states, but Shalmi said that in order to form
the German nation, in
the 19th century,
it necessitated the unification of more than 400 ‘units’, such as
Saxony (Dresden), Prussia (Berlin), and Bavaria (Munich). One of
the main forces for unification of these units: there was one
culture. As he said, culture cemented people before politics.
Saxony became so important in the 17th
and 18th centuries
because it epitomized the Age of Baroque. The Baroque style of
architecture was characterized by lots of ‘movement’ – many
angles and decorations, but nothing really symmetrical. The baroque
style was quite ‘busy’ he said. It was highly decorated both
inside and outside because it was also one of the first architectural
styles that used plaster and not stone so that it could be decorated.
The Palace of Versailles in France became the standard against
which all other buildings of this period were measured.
It had been raining
throughout most of our drive from Berlin, but the rain let up enough
for us to walk through large square where we could view the Catholic
Church of the Cross and the National Opera House as well as the
beautiful Lutheran church and statue of Martin Luther. In this new
nationalism of the 18th
century, we were told, museums, theatre and opera, became
institutions that expressed culture so that every country needed to
have a national
symphony or a national
museum - by which the cultural identity could be expressed. We
walked along the Elbe River lined with its day excursion boats moored
at the sides, until the rain decided to start up again so we headed
We ate lunch in a charming
medieval-style restaurant, where we were joined by our Prague guide,
Kamila who would be talking over for Olaf as we continued our
journey. Following a brief stop for those who wished to purchase a
souvenir of Germany or the town of Dresden we headed to our new bus.
During our time in Dresden, Bettina, our Berlin driver and Milan, our
Czech bus driver, had met and transferred all our luggage and
personal belongings onto the new bus. We made a brief stop at the
train station where we said goodbye to Olaf, our Berlin/Dresden guide
and to Jeff, our security guard, and then headed south to Prague.
As we drove into Prague,
the sun came out and the rain stopped. We checked into our hotel,
located in the center of the city, and then headed off to dinner at
the Hotel U Prince, located in the Market Square.
Go to Padlet link Day 4 below for student reflections.