Holocaust tour was incredible learning experience for WPHS students

Jessica Lenior, Amy Lenoir, Laura Nix, Julia Smth and Jordan Mize in Berlin, Germany where graffiti is considered artistic and political expression.
Staff Writer

Students and former students of Bruce Mize's Advanced Placement World History class took a European tour to visit Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic for a ten day excursion to visit Holocaust memorials. The trip was brokered through EFTours, a company that specializes in educational tours for high school and college students to creative an unforgettable learning experience.

"I only book these tours through EFTours," Mize said. "They are the only accredited touring company. Part of the package is a tour guide who can speak the languages you need and knows the countries and places that are on the tour. I have the utmost confidence in them when traveling with high school students."

Mize is a planning a trip to explore London, Paris, Belgium and Berlin to learn more about World War II.

"For this school year, we plan on doing a World War II tour," Mize said. "It is set for June 23 - July 3, 2018. It basically follows the D-Day Invasion. We will start in London, then travel to Normandy, Paris, Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge to finish in Berlin."

He said he has more than 15 people interested in making the trip next year and would like to have at least 20 to 25.

"We took the Holocaust Tour with two other groups," Mize said. "I'd like to have enough people go next time that we can make up our own group. That way if we need to change something on the schedule it won't be a problem."

Jessica Lenoir was a student who took part in the Holocaust Tour. She said she enjoyed visiting Europe.

"The weather was good while we were there," Lenoir said. "It got a little warm towards the end of the trip, the temperatures were in the 80s but there was no humidity. That was nice."

She said they toured the Jewish Museum in Berlin and other memorials to those who were senselessly murdered during the Holocaust.

"I enjoyed being able to visit Auschwitz, Birkenau in Poland," Lenoir said. "It was so quiet during the first tour, so very sad. We walked to the gas chambers on the same path those people took. You wonder what they were thinking, did they know they were going to die?"
Mize said he always wondered why they didn't rise up and fight back. He wanted his students to ask themselves the hard questions after the tour.

"When we got back to the hotel at night, we always had a discussion about what we had seen and experienced that day," Mize said. "It made what had happened during the Holocaust real to them."

Jordan Mize said it was nothing like reading about it in a book. The size of Auschwitz, the platforms the people slept on, the cramped quarters, the barracks where the children were kept. All these things that they had read about or seen in movies had really happened.

"The places were the children were kept really got to me," Mize said. "All these children who had done nothing and didn't deserve this sort of treatment. It was horrible to think about."

During the trip Mize had asked everyone to try the local cuisine.

"I am not of fan of pierogi's," Lenoir said. "They were nasty. We tried them stuffed with mincemeat, potato, cheese and cabbage. I didn't like any of them. But the cake was good and the ice cream in Warsaw, Poland was so good. Better than anything I've had here."

Lenoir said Germany was very modern.

Poland looks old, but it was devastated during the war and was rebuilt to look like it had before the war, Mize said.

"The Czech Republic was pretty much undamaged during World War II, and it still a beautiful old city," Mize said. "It looks like time had stood still in Prague. It is very touristy though. That was not the places I was looking to take the students. When we saw a lot of tourists heading in one direction, we went the other way. Not only were things more authentic away from the crowds of tourists, but they were less expensive."

Mize said the Jewish Museum in Warsaw, Poland was very disorienting, but it is meant to be that way.

Lenoir said they saw Ivanka Trump with the Polish President laying a wreath while they were in Poland. President Trump was visiting Poland and making a speech while the group was in Warsaw.

Camille Lenior was pleased both of her daughters were able to take advantage of the opportunity to go on the trip.

"I was so thrilled they were able to take this trip," Camille Lenoir said. "My older daughter had visited Europe and I wanted them to experience it too. How many kids can say they spent ten days in Europe? I wanted them to see for themselves and understand this part of history. It was a great opportunity."

Mize said the group never slowed down. They started at the Stansi Museum in Berlin. This museum is dedicated to preserving the history during the time of a split Berlin and Germany when part was under the control of the Soviet Union and the other half was a democracy with the United States after WWII. Since 1990, ASTAK has shown different exhibitions, providing information about the State Security and how its activities affected the GDR population. The permanent exhibition “State Security in the SED Dictatorship,” which the association created jointly with the Stasi Records Agency, opened in House 1 in January 2015.

"I produced a video about the Stasi Museum," Mize said. "Bernd Lippman was arrested and imprisoned for 3 years. After the Germans became free to cross into both sections of Berlin, November 9, 1989, Lippman wanted to create the Stasi Museum to keep the history of that time intact. The film is called 'Ransomed to the West; the Bernd Lippman Story."

Mize said his favorite part of the trip was when the students finally understood they were in Europe.

For more information on the next trip to be made next summer, or to make a donation to help West Point High School AP History students make the trip, email Mize at bbmize@gmail.com.