A Great Way to Commemorate

Dr. Michael Gross, Faculty Co-Advisor — World Wars/Holocaust Europe Study Abroad Trip

Because I was fortunate to have visited Amsterdam, Paris, Normandy and Dachau before this trip, the most memorable parts of the trip for me came from the new places or exhibits that I saw.  In Amsterdam, I enjoyed seeing a special exhibit at the Stedelijk Museum on how the museum’s collection of valuable art was moved to a special bunker built in a sand dune to protect it from possible bombing during World War II.  I was impressed at the incredible amount of planning and effort that went into the process of building and then moving the many pieces of artwork to the custom-made bunker.

In Belgium, from the Last Post Ceremony I’ll always remember the old French veteran (Henri Gevaert) who explained to us that he came to the ceremony in Ypres every year for the reunion of the “Para Commandos.”  He pointed out a British veteran who had parachuted in the D-Day landings.  At the end of the ceremony, he took a photo of our group, and then sent it to me the very next day.  From the tour of the battlefields the next day, seeing cemetery after cemetery of the British war dead drove home how much loss of life there was in the “Great War.”  Our guide explained that the British were buried on site due to government policy while the remains of soldiers of other nations were repatriated.   Both the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres and the History of the Great War Museum in Peronne (France) gave a great overview of World War I from the Belgian and French perspectives.

Normandy1

In Caen, France, the Memorial museum did a great job of linking the WWI and WWII parts of the trip with its exhibit that started with the failed peace of WWI and continued through WWII and beyond.   An added benefit was encountering a young French university student in the train station.  She explained in French that she was selling magazines that she had helped write as part of a competition in her university (she was a business student).  It turns out she spoke perfect English, having lived in West Virginia for several years.  She was kind enough to talk to us in English for a little while.  Several of us bought copies of her magazines to help her team in their competition.

In Munich, seeing the building that housed Hitler’s former office and the places where he gave many speeches was interesting, but I particularly liked visiting the Monument to the White Rose Resistance Movement’s members in front of the Ludwig Maximilian University.  Here, several courageous young university students spoke out against Hitler’s regime and were then arrested and beheaded.  Their words are memorialized in the pavement in front of the university.  Our guide asked one of our students to re-read part of the speech of one of the student resistance members.   All in all this trip was a great way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great War and the 70th anniversary of World War II.

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