I know I said I’d write from Germany, but I ended up not bringing my laptop on the excursion. So this post is coming post-trip from Prague. This weekend we visited 4 different places: Bohemian Switzerland National Park, Dresden, Terezín, and Lidice. Most of this trip was related to World War II with the exception of the national park.
Bohemian Switzerland was our first stop and is a two-hour bus ride from Prague. We did a boat ride that involved a guy with a giant pole literally pushing us up the river. No one is really clear
on why we did this, because it didn’t take us to any cool views or waterfalls. The boats could only hold about 30 people at once, so with almost 80 students this took a really long time. After a really good lunch, we set off on a hike that is 15 kilometers long. For those who don’t know the metric system like me, this is about 9 miles. The last time I’ve hiked 9 miles is never, so by the time we got to the top I was very ready to already be back at the bottom and on the bus. The view was pretty good–it led to a sandstone arch. That night we arrived in Dresden and I checked my phone to find that my step count for that day was 30,046. 11 miles in total.
Saturday in Dresden was the start of our World War II lessons. We visited the German Museum of Military History, which was pretty interesting. It was pretty focused on the World Wars and had a display of shoes that belonged to Jews. Apparently the concentration camps served as an industry because the Nazis could sell the clothes and shoes and even the hair of the people they killed. I had no idea they did that and was really horrified by it. Overall, the museum was interesting and I learned a few things that they never mentioned in school. The rest of the day was spent at an art gallery and a café where I got an incredible ice cream sundae.
On Sunday we visited Terezín, a prison camp. It was originally built to be a fortress but the Nazis took it over in World War II and it became a ghetto. It wasn’t a concentration camp, so no one was gassed there, but over 30,000 people died because of illness and just generally bad living conditions. The man who killed Archduke Ferdinand and started World War I spent 4 years there before he died from illness, which was interesting to learn. Overall, I did not like Terezín because it made me so sad. Imagining the horrors that went on there was aw
ful. We did a guided tour and then had some time to walk around on our down, during which time another American tour group stopped in one of the rooms and sang what we think was a blessing song. Listening to them was almost enough to bring us to tears, and a few of the people who were singing had to leave because they were crying. It’s hard to be in America and imagine what these people went through, but seeing the places where they actually lived and died makes everything feel more real. The worst part was seeing the place where the Nazis lived just a few hundred feet from where the prisoners were. They had a swimming pool and a movie theater while people were crammed into tiny rooms and forced to sleep standing up due to lack of space.
Even seeing Terezín did not prepare us for what we would find out at Lidice. Lidice was a small village of about 500 people in the Czech Republic. During World War II, one of the major leaders of the Nazis was assassinated in Prague. Hitler believed that the people of Lidice were hiding the assassins and told his soldiers that he wanted it to be as though Lidice had never existed. The Nazis came in and executed all the boys over age 15. They separated the women from the children a few days later, sending the women to a concentration camp called Ravensbrück. Some of the children they sent to German families because they were blonde and blue-eyed.
Others were sent to an orphanage because they were unable to walk. The remaining 82 children, the youngest of which was 16 months old, were put in the backs of trucks. They drove the trucks around for 20 minutes and pumped the carbon monoxide from the exhaust into the trucks, gassing the children to death. Meanwhile, the village itself was burned down and the ruins were bombed. They even moved the lake and the hill so the entire area was unrecognizable. As if this story wasn’t horrible enough on its own, the Nazis found the actual assassins in Prague a few days after burning the village and killing the men. They could have let the women and children go, but Hitler said that if they admitted they were wrong it would make the Nazis look weak. I had never heard this story and it is without a doubt the saddest thing I have ever heard.
Overall, this excursion was a good experience. There were a lot of times where I wanted to cry, but I think it was good that we found out about all of these things. The story of Lidice is very well-known in this part of the world and was famous during the war, but they don’t talk about it in America. I think they should, because it makes the Nazis seem even more horrible than they already appear. It just adds an entire level of evil when you know that they knew the village was completely innocent.
On a happier note, this weekend Livia and I will be traveling to Nice, France. Our Airbnb doesn’t have wifi (which is weird, right? I feel like most Airbnbs should have that by now), so I probably won’t be blogging from there, but I’ll make sure to tell y’all all about it when we get back! Later this week I will be doing a post about my photography class again because we’ve gotten into some really cool techniques with water!