College of Advancing and Professional Studies

The Holocaust: Historical Contexts

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The Holocaust is an epochal event of the 20th century that cannot but provoke fundamental questions about the nature of civilization. To study the Holocaust in historical perspective can help us better grasp the dynamics of racism, discrimination and hatred all the way through to their devastating ramifications, especially when sanctioned by state power in the grip of political extremism. To travel to and to experience places where the Holocaust was carried out can transform our study of one of the darkest periods of modern history into a deeper understanding of what is at stake in unrestrained enmity and intolerance.

Itinerary - Courses and Credit - Schedule & Fee - Faculty - Request Information

Historical Framework

Before the Nazis seized power in 1933, Europe had a richly diverse set of Jewish cultures, many of which were dynamic and highly developed, communities drawing from hundreds to more than a thousand years of Jewish life on the European continent. At this time, Polish Jewry, considered the center of the European Jewish world, could count over three million of Europe’s 9.5 million Jews. By war’s end, the Nazi-organized program of extermination, targeting principally Jews but also directed against other groups — Roma, Slavs, homosexuals, communists, resistance fighters, Catholic clergy, and the disabled — left these worlds decimated. The lessons that must be learned are just as urgent in the twenty-first century as they have ever been.

Participants in The Holocaust: Historical Contexts will be afforded a unique opportunity to contemplate a tragic past but also experience the resurgence of Jewish life in Poland, as well as a country that is arguably one of the most successful post-communist countries in Eastern Europe, and which is continuing its evolution through its inclusion in the European Union in 2004.

About the Program

Participants in our program will combine academic study with a carefully designed ten-day study abroad experience, led by a scholar of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies, Professor Curt Dunagan.

Prior to traveling, students will participate in classes dedicated to discussing and analyzing texts on the historical antecedents to the Holocaust, focusing on its causes, development and execution, manifestations, victims, as well as its place in historical memory.

The travel portion of the program will take us to a number of the most notable Holocaust sites on Polish soil, where we will also meet with scholars, historians and key figures in Poland today. There will also be time for excursions to introduce participants to some of Poland’s many cultural treasures and natural beauty, including time to explore the cities of Warsaw and Kraków.

Short orientation sessions each day will prepare participants for the day’s activities.

Program Itinerary

Dates Activities
June 1, 4, 8, 11, 15, 18 Classes at UMass Boston:
  • 1.5-hour (45-minute) classes on Mondays and Thursdays
June 21 Kraków: Morning Arrival at Kraków-Balice Airport
  • Immigration and customs formalities. Transfer to hotel.
  • Visit to and meet with a representative of the Jewish Community Center in Kraków
  • Group dinner in the Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz
June 22 Kraków:
  • Breakfast. Begin our exploration of Kraków
  • Rynek glówny is the largest medieval marketplace in Poland and is considered to be one of the finest urban designs of its kind
  • Brama Floriańska (Florian Gate)
  • Tour of Wawel Castle
  • Both lunch and dinner are independent
June 23 Auschwitz-Birkenau:
  • Breakfast. Depart for Oświęcim, Poland
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau is located in the Polish town of Oświęcim. It was here that the Nazis constructed the most infamous concentration and extermination camps in all of German-occupied Europe. Here, we will tour both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau), where more than 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives, and whose very name has become synonymous with the Holocaust
  • Visit the Auschwitz Jewish Center, located in the only surviving synagogue in Oświęcim
  • Independent lunch in Oświęcim
  • Group dinner at hotel to discuss our experience
June 24 Kraków-Warsaw:
  • Optional guided tour of the Medieval Underground Museum in the Kraków market square
  • Independent lunch
  • Depart for Warsaw in the late afternoon
  • Evening is free to stroll through the Old City (Stare miasto)
June 25 Warsaw:
  • Breakfast. Begin our tour of Warsaw’s Old Town
  • Old Town Square, completely demolished by the Nazis in World War II, was painstakingly rebuilt by the citizens of Warsaw
  • The short documentary film shown in the Historical Museum of Warsaw contains incredible footage of the destruction of this Warsaw district, as ordered and documented by Hitler, and the amazing reconstruction efforts initiated by the citizens of the city.
  • Visit site of former Warsaw Ghetto, Warsaw Ghetto Memorial, the Umschlagplatz, Nożyk Synagogue and Gęsia Cemetery
  • Group lunch
  • Nowy Świat, Warsaw’s main thoroughfare, lined with shops and restaurants
  • Dinner is independent
  • Evening is free to explore Warsaw or to take in a play at the Jewish State Theatre in Warsaw
June 26 Warsaw-Kraków:
  • Visit to the newly opened Museum of Polish Jews in Warsaw
  • Free afternoon. Tour guide will be available with suggestions for cultural activities, shopping etc.
  • Depart for Kraków in the evening
June 27 Kraków-Kazimierz:
  • Continue our tour of Kazimierz
  • Visits to the Old Synagogue, the Jewish cemetery, Remuh Synagogue, Tempel Synagogue and the Schindler Factory
  • Visit the remnants of the Płaszów concentration camp
June 28 Kraków:
  • Wieliczka Salt Mines
  • Afternoon return to Kraków. Visit to the Galicia Jewish Museum
  • Free evening
June 29 Zakopane:
  • Day trip to Zakopane
June 30 Departure from Kraków-Balice Airport
  • Breakfast and transfer to the airport for departure

Courses and Credit

According to their academic career and standing, students may register for either:

Students who wish to pursue more extensive research on a proposed topic may also register, with instructor permission, for:

Schedule & Fee

This program is not being offered at this time. Please contact erika.white@umb.edu with any questions.

Faculty

Curt Dunagan, PhD, adjunct faculty, Department of History, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Professor Dunagan earned his doctorate at Brandeis University in Modern European Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, specializing in Jewry on the historic Polish lands, interethnic relations, nationalism and the genesis and implications of modern antisemitism in Eastern Europe. Professor Dunagan lived, studied and taught in Poland for 5 years.

Request More Information

For application and program information, please contact:

Erika White
p: 617.287.7876
e: erika.white@umb.edu

For further academic information, please contact:

Curt Dunagan
e: curt.dunagan@umb.edu

Disclaimer

Please be advised that international programs are subject to change, slight or major, at any time due to circumstances beyond our control; this includes any and all fees, dates, itinerary, and program activities. We will do our best to inform all applicants of any changes in as timely a manner as possible.