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On September 7, 2016 we launched the Culture and Politics of Reconciliation, a semester-long Syracuse University Abroad program organized in partnership with the University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw, Poland. Together with our students, we begin our journey through which we explore the memories of conflict and ongoing processes of reconciliation in Central Europe.

Dwelling in Countermemorials
By Charlotte Oestrich

By Charlotte Oestrich

In “Stumbling upon history: collective memory and the urban landscape,” authors Mary Rachel Gould and Rachel E. Silverman discuss the significance of state-sanctioned memorials in shaping collective memory, “countermemorials,” and the difference in narratives and discourse created between the two. more

Justifying Memorials
By Rosa Beyk

By Rosa Beyk

One question I always ask myself is, ‘How can you create a memorial, that is supposed to instill a memory that you never had?’ more

The Two Visible Minorities in Prague: A Social Discourse of  “Othering”
By Ali Dunbar

By Ali Dunbar

Prague is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. A few of my friends who had previously visited described the city as “the Paris of Eastern Europe – full of wanderlust.” more

Dwelling in Places of Violent Memory
lottie-oestrich

By Charlotte Oestrich

Since we have landed in Eastern Europe, the area of greatest interest to me has been in thinking about how societies interact with tragic, and oftentimes violent, memory in spaces designated for creating and sharing memory. more

The Imperfect quest for a “Perfect” Memorial
By Lindsay Zerfas

By Lindsay Zerfas

“We would like to know how you would generate a good memorial.” These are words our professors said to us this past weekend during a workshop at the Topography of Terror in Berlin. more

German Memorials: Respect, Education and Reconciliation
By Brigitta Pupillo

By Brigitta Pupillo

From the start of our trip in Central Europe there has been a constant theme of suppressing and manipulating history. more

Reconciling National Narratives and Commemoration: Voices Still Waiting to Be Heard
By Ali Dunbar

By Ali Dunbar

After an eye opening two weeks of travel we finally arrived at our base location, Wrocław. The mornings are misty and raw in Poland. Autumn is definitely here and it is somewhat of a relief. I am now much busier, but more comfortable. more

Remembrance through Knowledge
By Rosa Beyk

By Rosa Beyk

If there was one thing I knew that I would take away from this entire study abroad program, it was that I would have a hands on experience on history and culture here in Central Europe. more

Poland’s 1968 Anti-Semitic Campaign: Why Historical Dialogue is Important
By Brigitta Pupillo

By Brigitta Pupillo

When I first arrived in Central Europe I felt very prepared and confident, to the point of almost arrogance. I knew that we would be gaining palpable knowledge about the Holocaust and the broader history of anti-Semitism in Europe, but my initial attitude was “I had already learned much of it before.” more

Spaces of Lost Memory
lottie-oestrich

By Charlotte Oestrich

Every country has a past, as does each city and street within it. Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania has multiple layers of heritage and memory considering it once formerly the capital of Poland. more

Exploring the Concept of Stories in Central Europe
lindsay-zerfas

By Lindsay Zerfas

Stories are an integral part of many children’s youth. Mothers often read to children the tales of knights in shining armor, princesses locked in castles, or, in my case, the story of a spunky kindergartener who finds herself in the principal’s office a bit too frequently. more

The Warsaw Ghetto Maccabee
By Arielle Pressman

By Arielle Pressman

Hanukkah 2015 has made it here, and like every year Jews try to keep the traditions by lighting the candles and making latkes. more

History Repeats Itself
By Dominica Vera

By Domenica Vera

Berlin, the capital of Germany, is home to plenty of memorials regarding the Holocaust. In Berlin, they have many memorials for the groups of individuals who were targeted during the Holocaust. more

Auschwitz: The Challenge of Remembering
By Arielle Pressman

By Arielle Pressman

Today, the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp serves as a museum managed by the Polish state, more specifically the Ministry of Culture. Even though, the site receives approximately 1.6 million visitors a year, it still faces challenges on how to preserve the memory and serve as a respectful place of remembrance. more

“Hier Wohnte”
By Renata Husted

By Renata Husted

They used to live here. In this four-leveled brick building. They used to climb this set of five steps, turn the iron doorknob, and breathe a sigh of relief because this was the place they called home. more

Aktion T4
By Monica Cabrera

By Monica Pellerano

I remember writing: writing lines, writing words, writing letters. And then something happened, and I was no longer writing, I was drawing. more

Putting a Face to a Name
By Dominica Vera

By Domenica Vera

I have been asked many times why I have decided to study abroad in Poland, and every time I say I chose it because I wanted to learn more about what happened in Central Europe during World War II and compare it to what I learned throughout my education in the United States. more

Forget-me-not
By Katherine Vargas

By Katherine Vargas

Walking through the red and orange leafed trees we laugh and smile as we pose for photographs. Some of us take pictures with giant leaves and others pretend to jump into a pile. more

70 Years, 9 Months, and 20 Days
By Renata Husted

By Renata Husted

It has been 70 years, 9 months, and 20 days since the complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau was in use.  more

Message from Wroclaw: Solidarity with Mizzou

DSC_0636We write to you from our dormitory in Wroclaw, Poland. Today, November 11th, is Independence Day. While some might think this would be a call for celebration, we have effectively sequestered ourselves inside. more

Are We Actually Seeing?

By Erin Kenney

By Erin Kenney

Being in Berlin, a significantly historical city and now the booming capital of Germany, I began to think about how many people are truly aware of their surroundings. more

Self-Hating Jewess Writes Pro-Palestine Article for Urban Labs Central Europe
By Farrell Brenner

By Farrell Brenner

Three months ago, I stood ankle-deep in the Dead Sea, staring at the misty mountains of Palestine on the other side. more

The Berlin Wall: A Symbol of Oppression
Marcin Zak

By Marcin Zak

The Berlin Wall is a testament to the fact that not even a war as incomprehensibly destructive as the Second World War was enough to put an end to the political divisions between human beings living in Central Europe in the 20th century. more

The Creation of a National Identity through Militarization
By Monica Pellerano

By Monica Pellerano

Military Museums have so often been nothing more than spaces dedicated to the demonstration of armament and capacity, that the Militär Historisches Museum in Dresden, Germany will forever remain in my memories as a singular attempt at the recognition and honest treatment of a past many would prefer to forget. more

My Big Fat Gyspy Wedding or My Big Fat False Portrayal?
By Erin Kenney

By Erin Kenney

Several months ago, if someone asked me what I knew or thought about Roma people, I likely would have answered with a blank stare. more

Auschwitz-Birkenau: Grappling with the Unspeakable

Marcin Zak

By Marcin Zak

To visit the old Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps located in Oświęcim, Poland was nothing short of an overwhelming experience. more

I won’t write about Auschwitz
By Farrell Brenner

By Farrell Brenner

Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang write about the prevalence of pain-centered research in the social sciences through the lens of settler coloniality. more

How do we measure depravity: In meters? In feet?
By Monica Pellerano

By Monica Pellerano

You know how some of the most beautiful animals are often the most dangerous? Their captivating colors serve as warning signs of their venom. more

Creating Identity Through Dialogue
By Dominica Vera

By Domenica Vera

If there were any place I would choose to live in for the rest of my life, I would honestly and proudly answer “Krasnogruda.” more

The Vanishing Footsteps of a People’s History
By Katherine Vargas

By Katherine Vargas

Coming into this program, I knew little to nothing about this region’s history. And even now, I still have only captured but a sliver of it. more

From Water Parks to Wake Up Calls
By Renata Husted

By Renata Husted

Type in the phrase “Vilnius Nightlife” into Google and you’ll get approximately 230,000 results. more

One History, Two Narratives
By Erin Kenney

By Erin Kenney

During our travels in Lithuania and Poland, we visited various museums dedicated to the remembrance of countless historical events, including the Jewish life which once thrived in these areas. more

A New Light Shines for the Memory of Jewish Poland
By Arielle Pressman

By Arielle Pressman

When I first told my mother I wanted to do a study abroad program in Poland, she questioned my safety as a Jewish student being there. more

We don’t discuss the echoes
By Farrell Brenner

By Farrell Brenner

As a patrilineal Jew and a student of women’s and gender studies, I’ve been reeling with questions over the past two weeks. more

Warsaw is Rising
Marcin Zak

By Marcin Zak

In a perfect world, it would be difficult to say something that hasn’t already been said about the likes of Warsaw and its suffering over the course of the Second World War. more

Message from Krasnogruda

Krasnogruda 2During our stay in Krasnogruda, near the town of Sejny, we had the honor and pleasure of meeting the Minister of Culture of Poland, Malgorzata Omilanowska. She was surprised to find a group of American students visiting the Borderland Foundation’s Center for International Dialogue, and questioned our reason for being here. more

The East Side Gallery: Forum and Monument
By: Michael Kosowski
By: Michael Kosowski

To recall the first time that I, to use a colloquialism, stepped up on my soapbox, is rather hard to do. There is no one event, no specific time that marks my morphing into an individual more

The East Side Gallery: Forum and Monument
By: Michael Kosowski
By: Michael Kosowski

To recall the first time that I, to use a colloquialism, stepped up on my soapbox, is rather hard to do. There is no one event, no specific time that marks my morphing into an individual more

Memorials, Remembrances, and their Interpretations
By: Megan Gorenflo
By: Megan Gorenflo

Berlin is a large and well-known city in Germany, the country’s capital, and a home to many memorials and commemoratins in regards to the Holocaust. more

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: Adequate Enough?
By: Meagan Edwards
By: Meagan Edwards

In the heart of Berlin there lies a monument. The enormity of this monument catches the eye of whoever walks or drives by regardless if they are in Berlin to see it or not. more

Field of Stelae
By: Kylie Britt
By: Kylie Britt

A memorial is a structure that creates a place of memory pertaining to a certain event or group of people.  The city of Berlin is a place with a rich history and as the capital of Germany more

Do No Harm
By: Kaylee DeZalia
By: Kaylee DeZalia

More than seventy years after the Holocaust, a memorial to the disabled victims of the Holocaust has been erected in Berlin, Germany. more

Inappropriate Memorials: Berlin’s Failure
By Katie Thomas
By Katie Thomas

Memorials are used as tools with which the living can honor the dead.  It is important for these places of memory to be connected and incorporated with the event that they are commemorating. more

The Hidden Truth inside East Berlin
By Jacquelyn Myers
By Jacquelyn Myers

At the end of World War II, Germany was split into four different zones, occupied by America, France, British, and the Soviet Union. The eastern part of Germany was under the complete control of the Soviet Union. more

Memorials and Memory
By Elon Clarke
By Elon Clarke

Day after day on this trip, the other students and I remark on the sheer number of memorials, cemeteries and monuments to death and murder we have encountered. more

Poland’s Elections: A Grim Future?
By: Michael Kosowski
By: Michael Kosowski

My face was pressed against the glass window of the bus, while I desperately tried to capture my first glimpses of Wawel Hill. more

Memories, Reflections and the Holocaust
By: Megan Gorenflo
By: Megan Gorenflo

When I was thirteen, I traveled with a school group to Dachau, Germany, where we toured the Dachau Concentration Camp. more

Auschwitz: An Experience and Lesson No One Should Ever Forget
By: Meagan Edwards
By: Meagan Edwards

Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, located in the town of Oswiecim in southern Poland. more

A Visit to Auschwitz
By: Kylie Britt
By: Kylie Britt

As a student learning about the Holocaust, I never envisioned myself actually visiting the site where millions of people lived and died in the concentration camps. more

Shadows of a Hidden Past
By: Kaylee DeZalia
By: Kaylee DeZalia

At first glance, the Galicia Jewish Museum seems small for a museum. As our group filed through the door, the first thing I saw was the café. I could not see any of the exhibits, just the café and the gift shop. more

Appalling Auschwitz: Confronting the Past
By Katie Thomas
By Katie Thomas

Recently, we have been discussing the differences between memory and history as two distinctly different concepts.  Memory holds personal meaning, whereas history is focused in academia and studies. more

Centennial Hall, Hope from the Past, a quiet message for the Future
By Elon Clarke
By: Elon Clarke

Begun as a space for the general public of Germany to meet and gather together under a monument of victory over Napoleon, Centennial Hall in Wroclaw is a space with a rich history, famous present and inspirational future. more

Inside the Barbed Wire Fences: Auschwitz and Birkenau
By Jacquelyn Myers
By: Jacquelyn Myers

From around the world people have come to visit both Auschwitz and Birkenau. Traveling through both camps is an eye opening experience. more

The Lack of Discourse between Monuments and People
IMG_1764
By: Kara McGrane

In most cases, a memorial is erected to commemorate an important event in history that a country would like to remember and to create a sense of pride in the country’s history. more

Stalin and Hitler as Statisticians
By: Megan Newell
By: Megan Newell

While walking the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau, our tour guide recited a simple, yet powerful, quote that has had me lost in thought ever since: the quote reads, “One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic”. more

“Colossal Cement”
By: Madeline Diorio
By: Madeline Diorio

Three months after walking around foreign cities, visiting museums, climbing towers and terraces, visiting monuments and museums and the most striking of all I find to be the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Germany. more

The Reconstruction of Relations
By: Page Garbee
By: Page Garbee

Generally when something breaks or falls apart you’re left with two options: fix it or throw it out and replace it with some new and improved model. more

Relations Between Peoples of a Troubled East Central Europe
By: Kevin Kuzniczci
By: Kevin Kuzniczci

From the mountains and foothills of the northwestern segment of the Czech Republic to the expansive metropolis of Berlin to the somber town of Oswiecim, the lands of east central Europe contain a vast history that, a few decades ago, experienced quite a great deal of strife. more

Marble made Monument
By: Megan Newell

The comfortable little gem of a city known as Wroclaw is not only our home for the time being, it is, and continues to be, a place of persistent issues of awareness and integration of the past. more

The Holocaust, in general
IMG_1764
By: Kara McGrane

The Holocaust was a specific, disquieting event in history, an unexpected rupture in humanity, yet it has become a trope for other genocides since its occurrence. more

BLOCK 27: IDEOLOGY KILLS
Madeline Diorio
By: Madeline Diorio

Following the Second World War Auschwitz-Birkenau soon became the universal symbol of the Holocaust where people from all over the world make the journey to Poland to pay respects to both the Jews and non-Jews whose lives were tragically lost there from 1941-1945. more

The Holocaust Memorial: An Individually Unique Experience
By: Samantha Avalos
By: Samantha Avalos

During my process of reflection on my experience in Berlin, and more specifically at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, I was steered by my professors to the work of Irit Dekel, in particular her article, ““Ways of Looking: Observation and transformation at the Holocaust Memorial, Berlin.” more

Contemplation of Themes Concerning Identities
By: Kevin Kuzniczci
By: Kevin Kuzniczci

Throughout the semester abroad in Central Eastern Europe out of all the themes and concepts we grasped, the most noteworthy notions generally involved the conception of memory and how one can reflect on the past through various lenses… more

“Commemorating the dead is part of human culture. Commemorating the fallen is … part of political culture.”
By: Tory Russo
By: Tory Russo

This semester we’ve visited countless sites of memory and seen plenty of examples of commemoration including cemeteries, monuments and memorials. more

Reflections on the Remains of the Wall
By: Samantha Avalos
By: Samantha Avalos
By: Kelsey Klimara
By: Kelsey Klimara

While reflecting and discussing our three-day trip to Berlin, we realized that we had one thing in common: nothing struck us quite as much as our two visits to different sections of the Berlin wall. more

The Weight of Memory
By: Katelyn Olsen
By: Katelyn Olsen

In a situation as tragic and unmatched as the Holocaust, how can the land of the perpetrators hope to move forward while acknowledging and accepting their roles in this tragedy? more

“Memories are built as a city is built.” – Umberto Eco
By: Tory Russo
By: Tory Russo

…Or rebuilt. In Berlin – a city physically divided for 28 years and socially, economically and politically divided for over 40 – the fall of the wall broke the barriers of communication enforced in the east by the Soviet regime… more

Reconciliation and Reconstruction in the 21st Century
By: Katelyn Olsen
By: Katelyn Olsen

When working with the memory and reconciliation of a place of destruction, there are three options for moving forward. You can do nothing, leaving the scars to speak for themselves. more

Unexpected Connections to the Past
Kelsey Klimara
By: Kelsey Klimara

I could probably reflect on my trip to Auschwitz for days and still have more to say. I could also have spent more than a few days at the camp and still had more to see. more

Preserving the Lost Identity through Memory: The Jewish Victims in the Borderlands
IMG_1764
By: Kara McGrane

When visiting city after city, museum after museum, memorial after memorial, it can be easy to forget the importance of what is being remembered… more

Beyond the Tears, Trees and Turmoil; the Road to Reconciliation
By: Megan Newell

By: Megan Newell

Our two and a half week travel seminar through Lithuania and eastern Poland brought to light the importance of dialogue, art and nature as means of reconciling with the past and cultivating awareness for the future. more

The Axis of Fear In Historical Tragedy
By: Jacob Steckel
By: Jacob Steckel

It is a strange phenomenon that, when facing the past, even those who did not experience events can be marked by them. Especially in the twentieth century, we who study human history and its consequences encounter ferocity, the likes of which are found neither in nature nor in reason. more

Moving Away from Indifference: The Hidden Past of Vilnius, Lithuania
By: Kelsey Klimara
By: Kelsey Klimara

After traveling for 20 days and to seven different cities, my favorite place is still the first. Vilnius, Lithuania has been the most impactful and memorable city thus far due to the history that is embedded within the city walls and due to the past that has been suppressed and forcibly forgotten. more

Absence of Community, Absence of Memory
By: Page Garbee
By: Page Garbee

Dilapidation consumes the town of Krynki. A small town lying near the Belarusian border in Poland, it once had a strong and important place in World War II and Jewish history. more

Experiences Within the Former Grand Duchy of Poland-Lithuania
By: Kevin Kuzniczci
By: Kevin Kuzniczci

From the time I had appeared at the international airport in Vilnius, Lithuania to the first minute our group presented ourselves at our hostel in Warsaw, we gained significant insight to the lessons of … more

“It’s impossible to imagine…”
By: Tory Russo
By: Tory Russo

For me, the easiest way to understand is through experience. This makes learning about the Holocaust particularly difficult because I have fortunately never been and hopefully never have to endure such a terrible time period. more

Ponary Forest Massacre
By: Jake
By: Jake “Andy” Fabrizio

Imagine the shock and outrage if a cohort of eleven students was ruthlessly slaughtered as the result of a sick ideological platform. The public would not be silenced. more

The Borderlands Foundation and the Town of Sejny
By: Samantha Avalos
By: Samantha Avalos

Our two-week intensive travelling seminar through Lithuania and the eastern Polish border was filled with eye-opening experiences, moving discussions, and heart-rending visits of sites of great tragedy. more

Remnants of the Past
By: Katelyn Olsen
By: Katelyn Olsen

Perhaps one of the saddest sights to see is a place that was clearly once so full of life and culture falling into a state of disrepair. more

Messages:

Message from Lublin
In front of the Lublin Castle

While the Holocaust history of Lublin is devastating, the current civil engagement built around the memory of a multicultural past is admirable and can inspire efforts in other places. Since the 1990s the Grodzka Gate – NN Theater, a city-funded cultural institution, has undertaken an enormous effort at reassembling the history of a multicultural city by collecting archival materials, photographs and also oral histories and testimonies of people that live or once lived in the city. more

Message from Krynki

The remains of the once Great Synagogue of Krynki

Before WWII, Krynki was an industrial town of as many as 9,000 citizens, most of whom earned their livelihoods working in the now-abandoned local tanneries. At least two-thirds of Krynki’s citizens were Jews, whose spiritual lives were centered around one of several prayer houses and synagogues in the town. more

Message from Sejny

With Krzysztof Czyzewski at the International Centre for Dialogue in Krasnogruda near SejnyOur days of work and reflection with our friends at the Borderlands Foundation in Sejny coincided with sad news of the passing of Max Furmanski, the only surviving member of the once pre-WWII Jewish community of the small town located on the Polish-Lithuanian border. more

Message from Vilnius

After the artistic workshop with Wiesław Szumiński (center) in front of the Sejny SynagogueThe once flourishing Jewish life in Vilnius came to an end in the Paneriai, a suburb of the Lithuanian capital, where beginning in the summer of 1941, six months before the Wannsee Conference, 72,000 mostly Lithuanian Jews were shot and buried in pits. Another 30,000 people lost their lives in the forest, mostly Polish intellectuals and members of the underground Home Army as well as Soviet POWs. more

What is ̏ Urban Labs Central Europe?˝

Traveling through Europe, one is constantly confronted with memories of conflict and reconciliation in places that have experienced dramatic upheavals. Urban Laboratories Central Europe offers a forum for international students based in Wroclaw, Poland to explore ideas about how the culture and politics of memory have shaped modern European identity. A once German metropolis nearly entirely re-populated and rebuilt by Poles at the end of WWII, Wroclaw is today a dynamic Central European city in the process of profound change. One of the host cities of the 2012 European soccer championships, the city has been has been designated the European Capital of Culture 2016. Wroclaw and the other sites visited by students in their time in Central Europe illustrate the continent’s multicultural past, and enable us to grasp how global events (formation of nation states at the beginning of the 20th century, WWI, WWII, Cold War, the building of the European Union) continue to transform the lives of citizens and their local communities.

Methodologically, the project grows from the tradition of action research, which aims at transforming knowledge into practical social action. Therefore, students’ diverse contributions on this site, based on their travels, interviews, site visits, observations, and exchanges with academic experts, officials, practitioners and regular inhabitants of cities and towns mainly in Poland, the Czech Republic, German, Lithuania, are intended to be a voice in deliberations about Europe’s past, but also its future.

These global education programs are organized by the International Institute for the Study of Culture and Education of the University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw in partnership with the Syracuse University and the State University of  New York at Brockport.

Student Projects in Central European Cities:

Summer 2014 Labs:

Berlin Wall4
Berlin Wall1
Roma 10
Zolnierze1

Our partners:

brockportx234
syracuse_new
ulsx376
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