International Stories

Published 04/04/18

Student's photo of concentration camp in Poland

"It's one thing to learn about what happened in Auschwitz from a lecture and some photographs,” says Michael Bryant, Professor of History and Legal Studies. “But it’s a far, far cry from going to Auschwitz and seeing the piles of material right in front of you.” (Photo courtesy of Lauren Sannizzaro ’18)

History course comes to life as students come face to face with Auschwitz, Nuremberg

For two months this semester, students in Michael Bryant’s "History, Law and the Holocaust" class learned about the most devastating genocide in modern Western history and its impact on the development of international law after 1945. During spring break, Bryant’s class traveled to Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic to come face to face with the locations they had been studying. 

"Seeing the concentration camps made [the coursework] that much more real."

"It's one thing to learn about what happened in Auschwitz from a lecture and some photographs,” says Bryant, Professor of History and Legal Studies. “But it’s a far, far cry from going to Auschwitz and seeing the piles of material right in front of you.”

Upon visiting the sites, Lauren Sannizzaro ’18 said, she and her classmates were "flooded with overwhelming emotion." 

"Just hearing about this sort of pure hatred and cruelty is enough to make anyone’s stomach turn," she says. "However, seeing the concentration camps made it that much more real. It was horrifically gut-wrenching."

In addition to visiting Auschwitz, the class traveled to Prague and to Nuremberg to see the Nuremberg War Trial Courthouse.

"We are always looking for ways to redesign a college education and make it even more compelling."

"We are always looking for ways to redesign a college education and make it even more compelling and more interesting for students," says Bryant. "Taking a class that includes international travel can be very attractive to students."

"I had never taken a history course on campus," says Sannizzaro, a Marketing major, but her interest in doing so grew after she studied abroad in London. That experience "led to my love of travel and immersing myself in other cultures."

For this trip, she says, studying the background of the sites on the itinerary proved helpful.

"It is a unique academic experience ... to learn about the topics and material in class before going on the trip," she says. Actually seeing the historic sites led to "a deeper understanding. You can continue your learning and discussion with this new perspective."