by Amanda Earle, World Wars/Holocaust Europe Study Abroad Participant
Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to travel. Thanks to Georgian Court University I was finally able to experience Amsterdam, Ieper, Caen, Paris, and Munich. In Amsterdam, I visited the Anne Frank House, which had moved me to tears. Seeing the home that Anne had to hideout in during World War II was moving, because pictures do not do the home justice. I felt claustrophobic due to the small size of the rooms, yet I did not let that feeling overcome me because I had to keep in mind that Anne and the Frank family had to stay hidden in this small home for years. After Amsterdam, the group traveled to Ieper, Belgium.
In Ieper I learned about the multiple battles that took place in the town during World War I. It was astonishing to see how the town rebuilt itself, as I reflected on older photographs from directly after the war. After Ieper, we traveled to Caen, France where we visited the beaches of Normandy, more specifically, Omaha Beach. Recalling the Allie-Invasion during World War II, it was interesting to learn that the French use the beach as a summer resort place. Since there were so many lives lost on this beach, it is very mind-boggling to learn that the beach has not been turned into a memorial site.
In France, I was lucky enough to visit Paris for a day and a half. In Paris, I was able to visit the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louve. I found it incredible that I was able to see in person France’s more prominent symbol: the Eiffel Tower. It was surreal! I was also able to walk under the Arc de Triomphe, which brought back memories of photographs that I had seen of Nazi soldiers driving underneath the arch, during their occupation of France in World War II. France was all it had been cracked up to be: it was beautiful.
Our last stop on this trip was to Munich, Germany. In Munich our tour guide was one of the most fun and energetic people I have ever met! We visited the BMW headquarters, which was dreamlike in itself, and we also visited prominent historical locations from World War II. We saw many memorial sites, where Jews and other victims of the Nazi Regime had been murdered. The most moving location in Germany that we had visited was Dachau, a concentration camp site. At Dachau, we were able to observe still-standing gas chambers, ovens, and living-quarters. This location, like the Anne Frank House, brought us all to tears. It was very difficult to walk through Dachau, because it felt so surreal and unbelievable. As we walked, I felt an awful haunted feeling, due to all of the energy that the site produces. It was a bitter way to end a wonderful trip, but it truly was one of the most educational experiences I have ever had. This trip was life-changing and I am extremely grateful for the experience.