WWU Students Tour Holocaust Sites During Spring Break

Twelve William Woods University students traveled to Europe to visit Krakow, Polandthe sites of the Holocaust during their spring break, as part of WWU’s distinctive Woods Around the World program in global studies.


They were accompanied by the Rev. Travis Tamerius, WWU chaplain; Shawn Hull, associate professor of history, and Michelle Kemp, director of career services and student success.

Students who made the trip were Brittany Bailey of Indianapolis, Ind.; Anna Bergman of Waukee, Iowa; Tiffany Bounds of Kingdom City, Mo.; Brittany Cox of Rolla, Mo.; Emily Edens of Lake Ozark, Mo.; Bryn Hudson of Carrolton, Texas; Emily Kime of Cassville, Mo.; Sydnee Kuster of Bunceton, Mo.; Jim Newsom of Fulton, Mo.; Lacey Olin of Pueblo, Colo.; Courtney Wieberg of Rush Hill, Mo., and Katherine Wortmann of Mexico, Mo.

William Woods received a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation to take students overseas to study the Cold War era in Europe and deepen their understanding of the Holocaust by visiting many of the still-existing sites.

Cathedral in PragueNewsom explained what he gained from the trip, “As a history major, being able to tour the atrocity of the Holocaust has broadened the scope of my understanding of it.”

Hudson said, “Auschwitz was the most moving of all the adventures we had in Europe. It is still hard to grasp the idea of how many people died there and the horror they went through.  However, I will never forget standing in the barracks with the wind blowing and how cold we were with several layers and imagining how the prisoners felt.”

Kime added, “The most influential part for me was watching Soviet films of when they liberated concentration camps. Watching those scenes after walking around Auschwitz and seeing the actual barracks men and women ‘lived’ in was overwhelming. It’s one thing to learn about the Holocaust in history class, or seeing pictures in a book, it’s another thing to stand in a room where thousands of people were gassed.”                                                                    


Tamerius prepared the students for the journey by offering the course “Woods Around the World: History of the Holocaust” this semester to students interested in exploring the connection between Fulton’s local history and the larger history of the 20th century.

“Before traveling to Eastern Europe, students completed a course in social responsibility, gaining leadership skills in combating violence and promoting peace,” Tamerius said.


During the nine-day trip, students toured some of Eastern Europe’s Fountain in Praguehistorical landmarks, including the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Warsaw Ghetto and Gestapo headquarters in Warsaw, the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow and Josefov, the Jewish Quarter in Prague.

“Traveling abroad gave me a constant mix of experiences from the beautiful to the horribly astonishing,” Bounds said. “It is amazing to think I have learned about these sights all throughout school, and now I am able to say I have actually been there.”

As part of the curriculum, Woods Around the World students kept a travel blog documenting their learning before, during and after the trip.  The blog can be accessed at http://watw2010.wordpress.com.

During the trip, students were impressed and intrigued by the difference in culture and lifestyles.

“I think I most appreciated the architecture,” Bailey said. “Seeing the buildings made me understand a little more about the way they used to live and what they value.”

Wieberg added, “Warsaw has the old European feel that sets American and European cities apart.  The cobblestone streets, colorful houses and the beautiful street lamps make Warsaw one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.”

WarsawOlin said what impressed her was the city structure and the design of Warsaw.                                                            

Kuster, on the other hand, liked Berlin: “I was fascinated by the history. It was a beautiful city, and I learned so much everywhere we went.”

Cox enjoyed both cities: “One thing that really stood out to me in Warsaw and more particularly, in Berlin, was the interaction and communication between people.”

Bergman added, “No matter where we went, an appreciation for all cultures was very apparent. The balance of appreciation and curiosity between cultures was truly incredible.”


Tamerius believes the course and the trip combined will enable students to think about the legacy of violence and how thinking can be changed to foster better relations. The course aims to challenge students to break cycles of violence by promoting pathways to peace and reconciliation.

Wortmann took the message to heart: “While I learned many pract