So, you’ve decided to run a school history trip to Berlin or Krakow (or both!) to help your students gain a better understanding of both life under Nazi occupation and the devastating scale of the Holocaust. But what visits should you include in your itinerary?
Here’s some further information on our most popular visits in these two locations, to help give you a better idea of what to include on your trip. And, of course, if you’d like any further information at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
If you aren’t able to combine your trip to Berlin with a couple of days in Krakow, a visit to Sachsenhausen is a must, to give your students a sense of the concentration camps system and the organisation of the Holocaust. The camp is located in Oranienburg, close to Berlin, where the administrative centre for all Nazi concentration camps was also based. Because of this, Sachsenhausen was used as a training and preparation centre for SS officers before being sent off to oversee other camps – including the future camp commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss. Notable former inmates include Martin Niemöller and Georg Elser. Guided tours can be provided in English for up to 30 students at a time.
Jewish Museum Berlin
Berlin’s Jewish Museum will give your students a greater understanding of the history of Judaism in Germany. Your students will discover how the lives of German Jews changed when the Nazis came to power and how they reacted to the increasing persecution. And the museum’s Garden of Exile will give your group the chance to reflect on the plight of the victims of the Holocaust. They’ll also have the opportunity to learn about what happened to the Jews after the Holocaust and to gain an insight into modern Jewish life.
Topographie of Terror
Built on the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters, the Topographie of Terror tells the story of the Nazi reign of terror and persecution. Political opponents were interrogated and tortured here, before being sent to one of the prisons or concentration camps. This visit will help your students to better understand life under the Nazi regime – in particular, the repression, prejudice and persecution.
Haus der Wannsee Konferenz
On 20th January 1942, the Wannsee Conference was held in this villa in Berlin. The aim of the conference was to secure the support and cooperation of senior government officials and SS leaders in the ‘Final solution to the Jewish question’ – essentially the deportation and murder of the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe. A visit here will give your students the opportunity to learn more about the Nazi persecution of the Jews and the various ways this was conducted.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Next to the Tiergarten and just a short walk from the Reichstag building and the Brandenburg Gate, this memorial is dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Consisting of 2,711 concrete slabs, or stelae, of differing heights, the floor is also undulating, resulting in a rather disconcerting feeling. Beneath the memorial, the ‘Place of Information’ contains the names of around 3 million Holocaust victims, making this visit ideal for both illustrating to your students the scale of the genocide, and giving them time to contemplate and reflect on this.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is normally the main reason school groups choose to visit Krakow. And visiting the most infamous Nazi concentration camp, in which over 1.1 million people died, will be an experience that your students never, ever forget. Seeing the piles of suitcases, shoes and human hair will be difficult, but will bring home to them the scale of the genocide committed here and across Nazi-occupied Europe. This half-day guided tour covers both Auschwitz-I, the original site, and Auschwitz-II Birkenau, the purpose-built death factory.
Tour of Jewish Quarter
Kazimierz has been a focal point for Jewish life in Krakow since the 15th century. Many Jews had made their home in Poland after fleeing persecution in other European countries and, for the most part, Polish society was comparatively tolerant of its Jewish community. However, when the Nazis occupied Poland, the Jewish residents of Kazimierz were forced into the Krakow ghetto, located just across the river from their homes. Many of them were later killed, either in the liquidation of the ghetto, or in one of the Nazi death camps. The guided tour of Kazimierz includes the Old Synagogue and the Ghetto’s Heroes Square.
Schindler’s Factory Museum
Although himself a member of the NSDAP, Oskar Schindler is credited with saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jews by employing them in his enamel and ammunition factories. He spent his entire fortune bribing SS officers to keep his workers safe, right up until the end of WWII. For his actions he was named a Righteous Among the Nations. The exhibition ‘Krakow under the Nazi Occupation 1939-1945’ is located in the former admin building of Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory and will give your students a greater insight into what life was like in the city under Nazi occupation.
The former Gestapo headquarters now houses an exhibition on the oppression suffered by the people of Krakow between 1939 and 1956, perpetrated first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets. This visit includes the opportunity to see the very cells where Poles were tortured and murdered. This is a particularly interesting visit for those interested in both the Nazi occupation of Poland, and the immediate aftermath of World War II.
The Eagle Pharmacy
This pharmacy is located within the former Krakow ghetto area and was run by Tadeusz Pankiewicz. Himself a Roman Catholic, Pankiewicz elected to remain in the area and continue operating his pharmacy when the district was closed off as a ghetto. He often provided the ghetto’s residents with free medication, as well as providing other products such as hair dyes to those wishing to disguise themselves. He also allowed the ghetto’s intelligentsia to use his pharmacy as a meeting place, smuggled food and information, and provided shelter for Jews facing deportation. For his courageous efforts, he was recognised as a Righteous Among the Nations in 1983. His pharmacy now acts as a museum commemorating life in Krakow’s ghetto.
Galicia Jewish Museum
The Jewish culture was once very strong in Polish Galicia and this museum celebrates this, while at the same time commemorating the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Located in Kazimierz, Krakow’s Jewish district, the museum aims to educate visitors about the history of Judaism in Poland, while also encouraging them to think about the future. This visit also includes the option to meet with and hear the stories of Holocaust survivor – a truly moving experience that your students will never forget.
Ariel Jewish Restaurant
This restaurant is located in the heart of Kazimierz and serves Jewish cuisine, alongside traditional Jewish music performances. This is a fantastic opportunity for your students to experience Jewish culture first hand.