Daniel Spillman / OBU
Several OBU students toured sites related to World War II and the Holocaust. They were led by Dr. Daniel Spillman and Dr. Christopher McMillion, both of whom have a passion for the era and hoped to share that with their students.
This past J-term 20 OBU students took to Europe with assistant professor of political science Dr. Christopher McMillion and associate professor of history Dr. Daniel Spillman.
While on the study abroad trip, the students visited different sites heavily affected by World War II and the Holocaust.
“These are the kinds of trips that can be transformative,” Spillman said. “You can have classroom experiences like that, but these are transformative experiences where you encounter the physical space where major world events happened. Events that involve the moments where you connect your faith to how you live in a complicated world.”
To get the full experience of the history of World War II, the group toured different concentration camps as well as the homes of different historical figures, such as Anne Frank.
Their first stop was in War- saw, Poland, where they visited the site of an important 1944 uprising. Next, they traveled to Krakow, which was the highlight of the trip for most students due to the city’s vast architecture.
“It’s a magical city in a lot of ways, but it’s a city that has a very painful history,” Spillman said.
Krakow was the home of Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over 1,000 Jews by employing them in his factory. During their time in Krakow, the group toured this factory, as well as the museum dedicated to Schindler.
Before leaving Poland, the students stopped by the infamous death camp known as Auschwitz. During the Holocaust period, this camp was designed to slaughter Jewish people en masse.
“I think Poland was really significant in this experience,” communication studies major Emily Boyne said. “Not only did it hold most of the concentration camps and the death camps, but it has so much of a significant part of the second world war that I never realized.”
After their journey in Po- land, McMillion, Spillman and the students took an overnight train to Prague, which is in the Czech Republic.
Prague is a city that wasn’t heavily bombed during the war due to Hitler wanting to keep it in an undamaged condition. His goal was to make it a location where he could host retreats.
From Prague, the group traveled to Munich, Germany, which served as Hitler’s home base. The city was also home to the first of the Nazi concentration camps, Dachau.
During their time in Munich, students had the option to take a day trip to either Salzburg, Austria or what is known as the Fairytale Castle, located in the Alps.
Next they headed toward Berlin, Germany, where they spent a couple of days touring a variety of museums and concentration camps.
“Berlin was utterly destroyed in World War II,” Spillman said. “So, it’s not like Prague and it’s not like Krakow. Berlin, Munich and Warsaw were cities that were just decimated.”
From Berlin, the professors and the students took a train to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, they had the opportunity to tour the homes of Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom, both of whom were influential figures during the Holocaust.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who believed that God had called her to shelter Jewish people in her home at the risk of her own life. Ten Boom, her father and her sister built a fake wall in their house that created a hiding place for Jewish refugees.
“Because she was a Christian woman acting out of her own convictions, it’s just a powerful story,” Spillman said. “So for the students to be in this space, it was just a fantastic experience.”
Before going on the trip, the students were required to read books related to the places they would visit, such as Anne Frank’s diary and ‘The Hiding Place’ by Ten Boom. The goal was for the students to tie what they had read to physical spaces they would visit.
Spillman and McMillion also held office hours in the hostels they stayed in each night in order to give students time to reflect on and discuss their experiences. Students said these discus- sion times were what really tied the trip together.
“This trip helped me realize how resilient and courageous people can be,” Boyne said. “Whether hiding in a two-foot-deep hidden room in Corrie Ten Boom’s house, a victim of Auschwitz, or a part of the Warsaw uprising, people were so courageous to risk their lives and protect others and their country. They would stand up for the sake of life knowing that they would die. That kind of courage and resilience is incredible and inspiring.”