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World War II: The Fall of Nazi Germany (70 Year Anniversary)

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Study Abroad - Germany

Program Description

HIS 340 is a hybrid course led by Flagler faculty that integrates distance learning and on-site exploration in a foreign culture. The result is a high-impact educational experience that is unique at Flagler College.

The class will allow students to examine World War II from the 1944 Battle of the Bulge through the 1945 fall of Berlin from numerous perspectives. During the 9 day tour, students will visit a variety of sites in Bastogne, Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, Salzburg, Dachau, and other historic locations. The itinerary is customized by the professor leading the tour to emphasize areas and sites of particular relevance to the course topic. The program is built around the 70 Year Commemoration of the fall of Berlin and liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp. The uniqueness of the program makes it a once-in-a-lifetime cultural and educational experience for students.

Program Information

Program Leader:

Dr. J. Michael Butler
Dr. J. Michael Butler

Department: Humanities
Program Location: Belgium (Bastogne); Germany (Frankfurt, Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, Dachau); Austria (Salzburg)
Course Title: HIS 340: The Fall of Nazi Germany
Dates: 05/26/2015 - 06/04/2015
Credit Hours: 3 hours
Eligibility Requirements/Prerequisites: College eligibility for requirements for Study Abroad. Permission of Instructor.
Estimated Student Enrollment: 15
Estimated Cost: $3,786

Expected Learning Outcomes

This course will provide the student, through the travel itinerary, lectures, and outside reading, a high-impact learning experience. Upon completion of this course, students will:

  1. Exhibit an increased factual knowledge of World War II through the recognition and understanding of key events, personalities, places, and social developments through written assignments, exams, and group discussions
  2. Understand the roles that the Battle of the Bulge, Berlin, the Nazi Party's Munich foundation, and the liberation of Dachau played in the Second World War
  3. Develop skills in expressing oneself both orally and in writing through classroom participation, writing assignments, and the final travel journal project
  4. Improve their abilities to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view through the reading of primary and secondary source documents
  5. Better comprehend how historians reach conclusions concerning the past and will become more familiar with the research tools, tactics, and approaches that such professionals use

Day 1: May 26, 2015

Fly overnight to Germany

Day 2: May 27, 2015

Bastogne: The Battle of the Bulge

  • Welcome to Germany! After we arrive and clear customs in Frankfurt, the group will depart for Bastogne.
  • Take a guided tour of Bastogne, the "town that turned the war." At the Bastogne Historical Center, we will view an exhibit that pieces together one of history's most famous battles. Two reconstructed scenes describe how the Battle of the Bulge unfolded from the German and American perspectives. Each diorama, complete with weapons, uniforms, and other military paraphernalia, depicts the lives of common soldiers who fought in the battle.
  • Visit McAuliffe Square, named for the American General who famously replied, "Nuts," when German forces demanded the US surrender of Bastogne. The Sherman Tank on display in the square participated in the Battle of the Bulge and remains a proud symbol of Allied victory.
  • We will also see the Mardasson Monument, which commemorates the American soldiers died during the Belgian liberation, and the Patton Monument, erected in honor of the controversial general who liberated Bastogne.
  • Overnight in Bastogne.

COURSE MISSION: To orientate students with the turning point in the Second World War and the chronological beginning of our course. This is where the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest battles of the war which ultimately stopped the German advance on Antwerp and initiated the final Allied Western march to Berlin, took place.

Day 3: May 28, 2015

From Bastogne to Berlin

  • Depart Bastogne and head north, stopping first to visit the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, a 90-acre cemetery of more than 5,000 who perished during the Battle of the Bulge. Compare the American Cemetery to the German one that we also visit.
  • In the Ardennes forest, ground zero of the Battle, we will see how the dense terrain contributed to the tide-turning failure of the German offensive. See if you can spot the remains of Allied foxholes and bomb craters as we walk through areas which experienced some of the Battle's most intense combat.
  • Continue on to Cologne where, time permitting, we will enter the Kainer Dam, the city's war-scarred Gothic Cathedral which took over 600 years to complete and suffered severe bombing in the aftermath of the Bulge. Inside the Cathedral, see if you can find the medieval shrine to the Three Wise Men.

COURSE MISSION: This day continues our focus on the Battle of the Bulge and its importance to the eventual fall of Nazi Germany. The class will read a book on the monumental battle as part of their pre-tour coursework, and will have the chance to reflect on the reading and offer first-person insights during our transfers to Cologne and Berlin. The time spent in Belgium sets up the remaining tour of Germany (with its focus on the rise and fall of the Third Reich) quite well.

Day 4: May 29, 2015

Berlin: The Heart of Nazi Germany

  • Take a guided tour of Berlin, whose conquest and post-World War II fate defined the century's remainder. Today will highlight both the course theme and its Cold War-era consequences.
  • Ride past the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche, which remains unrestored as a reminder of the ravages of war, and down the glittery KurfOrstendamm, Berlin's liveliest street. We will see the Rathaus Schoneberg, where 1.5 million residents heard JFK's famous 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.
  • On our way to the Eastern sector we will pass the Reichstag, former seat of the German parliament during its Imperial and Weimar Eras.
  • Walk through the Brandenburg Gate, once the symbol of the undeclared Cold War and now symbol of a newly united Berlin. Find the yellow bricks on the Gate's eastern side, which symbolizes the boundary of the Berlin Wall. It is here where the famous images of East and West Berliners dancing upon the crumbling Wall were filmed and broadcast to the world in 1989.
  • Visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, where the best known crossing between East and West Germany stood. The visit is tremendous for those with an interest in Public History and Museum Studies, and is devoted to the thirty-year Cold War era and its most recognizable symbol.
  • Explore the Topography of Terror Museum, which is located on the site of the former 55 headquarters in Berlin. The outdoor exhibit in the former basement cells focuses on the regime's systemized rule of terror, and the fate of some of the people who were imprisoned and tortured on these grounds. A general documentation outlines the Nazi rise to power and their administrative center in Berlin.
  • After dinner, we have an opportunity to see the urban landscape by night and will visit sites such as the Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park, which commemorates the 20,000 Russians who died in the Berlin of Berlin, and the upper deck glass dome of the Reichstag for a breathtaking (yet historical) view of the intriguing city.

COURSE MISSION: Today many of our course themes will converge, so the coursework will help students orientate themselves to the various periods in the city's history between 1933 (when Hitler became Chancellor) to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The day's tours will highlight some key World War II sites, such as the location of Hitler's bunker and several key Third Reich structures, but it will also demonstrate that what happened in 1945 had an impact on the remainder of the Twentieth Century. Berlin, as will become abundantly clear, was the first key battleground in an emerging post-World War II Cold War between the Soviets and Americans. Students will learn that the influence of the Nazi Era did not end with Berlin's 1945 fall.

Day 5: May 30, 1945

Berlin, part II

  • The day will begin with a fascinating panel discussion on WWII and its legacy at a local university (details forthcoming).
  • With our tour guide, we will explore the city on foot and visit several places that have a direct connection to the Nazi regime. We will see the monument to Claus von Stauffenberg, the German General who participated in the most famous assassination plot against Adolf Hitler, which is erected on the site where he was executed. We will also see where Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda stood during the 1930s and 1940s.
  • A major site is Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring's Air Ministry building on Wilhelmstrabe, a classic example of Nazi architecture. The building is so immense that it was the reference point for most Allied air raids of Berlin. It somehow escaped major damage during the war, and appears today almost exactly as in the 1930s (minus the Eagles and Swastikas). We will also view the site of Nazi Party book burnings and an artistic reminder of the dark period, and the area where Hitler's bunker was once submerged. He killed himself here as Soviet soldiers marched overhead.
  • Visit the Jewish Museum Berlin and learn the history of the Jewish-German culture. Featuring exhibitions and an extensive virtual library, the museum offers powerful insight into the lives and history of German Jews.
  • After our walking tour ends, there is the opportunity to experience city sites during our free time in Berlin. Some likely destinations are the Allied Museum, which chronicles the presence of Americans, British, and Russian soldiers in Berlin starting in 1945, and the Bundestag, the heart of German government which has a wonderful 'Historical Exhibition' that emphasizes the political situation in Germany before, during, and after the existence of what it calls "the Fuhrer state." Another option is the Zeughaus (Arsenal), which now houses the German Historical Museum.

COURSE MISSION: The tour will continue to highlight the role Berlin occupied before and during the Second World War. The city's 1945 fall is one of the watershed events in world history, and the sites and that students will experience today will reinforce its importance.

Day 6: May 31, 2015

Nuremburg: Propaganda and Trials

  • Travel to Nuremburg, the second largest city in Bayern and an important city to the Nazi party, as they saw it as a classic example of the rich Germanic history and culture. Indeed, Hitler once called Nuremburg "the most German of German cities."
  • In Nuremburg the class will visit the Documentation Center, a museum built inside of an unfinished Nazi congressional building, and will walk upon the very parade grounds where annual NSDAP rallies were held between 1933-38 that drew hundreds of thousands to the city. Leni Riefenstahl shot much of her controversial propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, from this very location.
  • Fittingly, Nuremburg is where the Allies held the war crimes Tribunal against party members after the conflict ended. The class will visit the Palace of Justice and courtroom 600, where the War Crimes trials against some surviving Nazi leaders took place and a new historical exhibit now resides.
  • Overnight in Nuremberg.

COURSE MISSION: To orientate students with some vital landmarks in growth of the Nazi Party and the eventual punishment of its leading figures after World War II ended. The visit to the Parade Grounds, in particular, is a sobering reminder of our course theme, and a vivid visual of how the Nazi Party envisioned Germany's role in the creation of a "Thousand Year Reich" throughout Europe.

Day 7: June 1, 2015

Munich: The Birth of Nazism

  • Take a guided tour of Munich, the capital of Bavaria and the Gothic-styled former heart of the Nazi movement. The city's name is derived from a term meaning "little monk" because its original settlement bordered a monastery.
  • Stroll through the heart of Munich, where medieval trade routes once intersected. In Marienplatz, see the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) with its famous Glockenspiel. Continue past the cathedral known as Frauenkirche and the famous Hofbrauhaus, once the royal brewery of the Kingdom of Bavaria.
    • Dr. Butler will lead a walking tour of Nazi Munich, where we will visit where the failed Beer Hall Putsch began and a location where Kristallnach was enacted.
    • Some other sites of interest to experience: The very spot where the Nazi Party was launched; the site of the Gestapo Headquarters; the main Party office and location where the "Munich Peace Agreement" was signed.
  • Enjoy a traditional Bavarian dinner. This evening, get an authentic taste of Germany when you enjoy a traditional dinner at a Bavarian brauhaus. Dig in to local favorites, which will most likely include German bratwurst or Bavarian pretzels, known as laugenbrezel.

COURSE MISSION: This day centers on Munich as the birthplace, headquarters, and official capital of the National Socialist Workers Party. It is a somber visit, and it is also interesting to note how the city and nation commemorate/recognizes its controversial past. The walking tour, in particular, was organized by Dr. Butler to stimulate much post-dinner conversation.

Day 8: June 2, 2015

Salzburg: The Eagle's Nest

  • Travel to Salzburg, Austria, and take a guided tour of "the city of music." Hitler visited Austria immediately following the Anschluss, or union of Germany and Austria on 12 March 1938. Salzburg is known as the birthplace of Mozart and the backdrop for The Sound of Music (The Von Trapps lived here before fleeing Austria after the Nazi invasion). With a local guide, you'll get an in-depth look at a city that saw nearly half of its buildings destroyed during WWII. Time permitting, the class could visit the Mozart Birthplace and/or Residence Museums.
  • Move from Salzburg to Obersalzburg for a a guided tour of the Eagle's Nest. Originally built as a teahouse for Hitler's 50th birthday, the Eagle's Nest took over a year to build and cost over 150 million euros. It subsequently became an important Nazi meeting place where several decisions were made that influenced the outcome of World War II.

COURSE MISSION: The excursion to Salzburg emphasized Hitler's desire to expand the Third Reich beyond Bavarian, and indeed, German borders. Students will learn why the Nazis viewed expansion of the Aryan people as essential and without boundaries, as the physical landscape, language, and culture linked all of Germanic descent to each other. The journey to Obersalzburg contains breathtaking scenes where Nazis built homes, offices, and businesses in preparation for what they believed was 'the thousand year Reich.' The Eagle's Nest is a symbolic location of the culmination and crumbling of Nazi fantasies.

Day 9: June 3, 2015

Dachau: The Final Solution

  • Travel to Dachau, a WWII Nazi concentration camp built in 1935. It was the first in a series of camps (the 'parent camp') that the Nazis spread into other parts of Europe over the next twelve years to punish and, eventually, eliminate those who did not conform to the mythic "Aryan ideal."
  • The camp was liberated by US troops in 1945 and is today a museum dedicated to the memory of the many who were lost there. The gravity of Nazi atrocities is hauntingly preserved throughout Dachau complex, from its cells, bunkhouses, guard towers, and gas chambers through the original crematoriums.
  • A sign affixed to the main entrance gate reminds all who enters, "Freedom Through Work." Students will learn how every step of the "Final Solution" was practiced at Dachau.

COURSE MISSION: The tour will culminate with its chronological end- the liberation of Dachau. The visit is a challenging but also a deeply moving, memorable, and historically vital experience. This is a sobering conclusion for what the Nazi regime meant for millions of Jews, political prisoners, and 'social deviants.' Our final day in Germany will give a sense of clarity and closure to the course theme.

Day 10: June 4, 2015

Depart for home