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Need ideas for student travel focused on WWII and the Cold War - "Rhetoric of War and Remembrance"

I am looking to put together a study abroad experience for about 25 students. The trip would take place during the summer months. Our class would focus on the rhetoric of the WWII and the Cold War in Prague, Vienna, Budapest. We would like stay for about three weeks.

Was wondering if anyone could provide some pointers as to "must see" places for my students. I know for certain we will visit the House of Terrors museum.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
602 posts

Justin: From the title of your study tour, I would strongly suggest including Berlin. I co-led a study tour in another academic field to Germany this past March, and we had about one and a half days of free time in Berlin. In terms of WW2 and the Cold War history, I don't think any other European city compares to it. Rick's Germany guide lists at least 12 WW2/Cold War-related sites in the "Berlin at a Glance" section, and this doesn't include nearby Wannsee, Sachsenhausen, Ravensbruck, and Potsdam. You might want to consider reducing the time spent in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague by at least one day each so that you could also include at least 3 days (or more!) in Berlin in your 21-day itinerary. I would suggest flying "open jaws" (i.e., into Budapest and out of Berlin), with the following itinerary: Budapest --> Vienna --> Prague --> Berlin. All of the intercity travel is achievable easily by train, and if you purchase your tickets 90 days ahead of time, combined with a group fare, you will save a bundle (maybe as much as 70%). It will be an amazing study tour, and I wish you the best of luck!

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all so much. You have certainly provided the groundwork for an awesome adventure. I will post updates as I am certain many more questions once we have the syllabus and exact timeframe for study!

Posted by
1615 posts

I agree that you should add Berlin to this tour. The Checkpoint Charlie museum would be an obvious place to visit. Just the fact that Berlin was a city divided for so many years would make it an essential stop on a trip like this. The Museum of Communism in Prague would be a good visit. Prague my be overrun in the summer months - it certainly was when we were there in May 2011. Memento Park (Statue Park) on the outskirts of Budapest is really great. It does not look like much upon arrival, but if you take a guided tour it is really memorable. They have a side attraction there that has to do with instructional videos for trainees of the communist secret police. The whole thing seems at once chilling and oddly comical when we visited. But with recent events, it would feel more chilling now I expect. The contrast between Vienna and Budapest is something to observe. There are strong cultural similarities; they were once part of the same empire after all, though not equal partners. But one spent a long time behind the iron curtain and the other did not. I highly recommend Rick's books for these destinations. I have never visited Bratislava, only sailed past it this year on a river cruise. It could be worth looking at as well though.

Posted by
10583 posts

Hi,

Some good pointers given above on Berlin if you decide to amend the itinerary to include the city. I suggest too that you include Berlin and drop Prague (only if really pressed for time). Anglo-American military strategy differed profoundly over Berlin, the cold war starts over disagreements over Berlin. Both Berlin and Vienna still have WW II sites ( aside from those suggestions above) which are well worth going to. Both cities have the Flaktürme (the towers for the ack ack guns) against Allied bombers, In Budapest and Vienna (Berlin too) the esoteric sites on WW2 and the cold war can be located and seen.

"must see" places...in Vienna the Zentral Friedhof (main cemetery) to see the Soviet military cemeteries, the Soviet WW 2 Memorial, the Heldenplatz (see the documentary film on this first), the Army Museum (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) and the outside exhibit in the gardens, Compare and contrast this in Vienna to the one in BP.

Posted by
4430 posts

With just 3 weeks I think you should stay focused on your three cities. Obviously there are many more sites in Europe relating to WWII and Cold War, for example in Poland, Russia, Germany, but I am afraid you won't have time for them. I leave Budapest and Vienna to experts James and Emily. In Prague: Museum of Communism, Museum of KGB. Heydrich assassination museum in Prague. Lidice memorial (20 km from Prague), Terezin concentration camp (about 1 hour by bus from Prague). Museum of Iron Curtain in Valtice (on the way to Vienna change trains in Breclav, about 10 minutes train ride from Breclav). Nuclear silo (or storage) museum in Misov (about 90 km SW of Prague). Check these websites: http://www.lidice-memorial.cz
http://getyourguide.com/prague-I10/world-war-ii-in-prague-tour-t14170
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/17/us-czech-soviet-museum-idUSBRE94G0JC20130517
http://www.pragueexperience.com/places.asp?PlaceID=1228
http://www.en.czech-unesco.org/13_42244_iron-curtain-museum-valtice/

Posted by
8545 posts

Prague does have a pretty profound old Jewish quarter. Vienna is pretty profound in its lack of the same. The holocaust is a subject close to me, but I still could not go to a camp. Krakow is another town with some good WWII ties.

Posted by
3474 posts

Doing both WW II and the Cold War seems like too large a topic. But I'm sure you already know what general topics and documents you want to cover.

I was struck, about ten years ago, that it was easy to get a cab driver in Budapest who had warm feelings about the USA, which is far from routine in the rest of Europe. In suburban Berlin, look into the Grunderzeit Museum (and the play I Am My Own Wife, if fiction is part of the curriculum.) When we were in Leipzig, I wanted to see the St. Nicholas Church (... end of the Wall) as much as I wanted to see Bach's Thomaskirche. Again, if fiction is involved, consider the Czech film "Zelary", and the German "The Legend of Rita." I'm sure you've already thought of "The Lives of Others". [Edit: and "Goodbye Lenin"]

Dresden is more of an Art destination, but don't overlook the Military History Museum there, which is not simply a collection of arms, but a historical warehouse of Germany.

Posted by
10583 posts

Hi,

Are your students, presumably high school. involved in the International Baccalaureate program which has the topics of WW 2 and the Cold War as part of its curriculum? If three weeks is the max time span for this trip, I would definitely spend a week per city, including down time for the students, in case they want to divert their attention from history. I can't imagine why they would even entertain such a thought being in these 3 cities you've listed. If you decide to include Berlin, then that's unheard of!

Posted by
8545 posts

"Our class would focus on the rhetoric of the WWII and the Cold War in
Prague, Vienna, Budapest"

Justin, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but based on the term "rhetoric" in your description I suspect that you have chosen wisely and precisely because: one country was annexed, the second capitulated, and the third collaborated . Great cross section, great choices.

Have each kid buy a pair of Tisza shoes as their uniform for the trip: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tisza_Cip%C5%91

Budapest had the somewhat dubious honor of being the home of the first McDonald’s behind the Iron Curtain. It still stands on Vac utca. Vaci utca was the market street full of western goods that was allowed to exist so the communist aristocrats (oxymoron ?) had a place to purchase western comforts during the cold war.

Some other ideas for your class taken from my favorite Budapest inspired website:
http://visitbudapest.travel/activities/budapest-tours/life-under-communism-tour/
http://visitbudapest.travel/activities/budapest-sightseeing/retro-budapest/
http://visitbudapest.travel/activities/budapest-tours/retro-budapest-tour/

This is a great movie about Budapest under Soviet rule. It’s old propaganda but it will present your students a very different point of view. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc5Yu0GkdvE

Posted by
29465 posts

justin,

If you'll be in Prague, one WW-II historic sight that I'd definitely recommend is the Church of Saints Cyril & Methodious, which was a very significant site connected to Operation Anthropoid. There's a small but well done Museum in the basement and crypts area where the "final battle" occurred. In connection with that, you may wish to take one of the tours with excellent local guides that cover the background of those events. The consequences of Anthropoid were dreadful, not only for those who took part but especially for the residents of Lidice and Ležáky.

Posted by
3474 posts

I wasn't aware of that McDonalds in Budapest, which evidendly went up only a year or two before the fall of the Wall(?) But I did read about the McDonalds nearest East Berlin that built a fortune for the, later, founder of the Vapiano chain - now even in New York City, near NYU.

This isn't a particularly well written article, but it's the first one I turned up today:

http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2009/11/mcdonalds_and_the_berlin_wall.html

Posted by
4430 posts

Justin, it seems to me that there are some hints from certain posters that you chose your cities wrong because "one country was annexed, the second capitulated and the third collaborated." I think you chose right because so little is known about WWII and post war period in these countries in the US. Obviously if you were choosing based on intensity of armed resistance against Nazis then your trip would be to Russia, Belorussia, countries of former Yugoslavia and Poland. Country which was annexed was Austria, Hitler's birthplace. Even there there was some resistance (google). Not very well known fact is that Austria was divided after WWII similarly like Germany and Vienna similarly like Berlin. Division lasted 1945 to 1955. Country which capitulated was Czechoslovakia. It was allied by treaty with France, and Great Britain was in turn allied with France, so both countries would be obliged to help Czechoslovakia if it was attacked. Instead prime ministers of G.B. and France (Chamberlain and Daladier) sacrificed Czechoslovakia for Hitler's promise of peace in so called Munich Agreement which in CS was called Munich Betrayal. Churchill said about it: Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war.
Country which collaborated was Hungary. Actually it was an ally of Axis and fought with Germans against Russians among others at Stalingrad. But in 1944 it changed sides (as some other countries like Italy, Romania, Slovakia etc.)
Let me recommend few books so your students can better understand the situation and circumstances:
Callum MacDonald: The killing of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich
Madeleine Albright: Prague Winter
Victor Sebestyen: Revolution 1989 - The Fall of Soviet Empire
Victor Sebestyen: Twelve Days - The story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
Timothy Snyder: Bloodlands - Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
Alan Clark: Barbarossa - The Russian-German Conflict 1941-45
Anne Applebaum: Iron Curtain
and use Wikipedia on google for a quick information.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you each very much for your input. I look forward to dissecting each suggestion and making the best trip and educational experience for our college students possible!

Posted by
10583 posts

Hi,

Good, that these students are in college. How many of them are learning a foreign language as well? If you stick to your original itinerary of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague with all their interesting, pertinent, and important museums, I would suggest the students polish up on their German reading vocabulary. That will come in handy when reading the political posters (Nazi, Communist, socialist, the traditional Right, humanitarian, etc ) in the museums. Don't just rely on the audio guides; that's not good enough if you want to read the "rhetoric" leading to the war and the war itself in banners, propaganda, voting posters, newspaper headlines I'm not sure if the Military History Museum in Budapest (one place you should visit as to perspective) even has audio guides. Bottom line... linguistically, if you have someone in your group who has a good command of Czech and German, the students will get a lot more out of this experience in reading plaques, statues, monuments, memorials, posters, map and museum display titles, etc...maybe document or letter displays as primary source evidence.

Posted by
8545 posts

BUDAPEST

Fred is correct. But baring knowledge of German and Russian; hiring a bilingual guide might be much less expensive than renting 35 audio devices & might possibly be more informative. I know a handful of guides I can check if there is any interest.

Fred, you seem to like languages so I thought you might be interested in this from Wikipedia.

Hungarian 9,896,333 (99.6%) The only official language of Hungary. Of whom 9,827,875 people (98.9%) speak it as a first language, while 68,458 people (0.7%) speak it as a second language.
English 1,589,180 (16.0%) Foreign language
German 1,111,997 (11.2%) Foreign language and co-official minority language
Russian 158,497 (1.6%) Foreign language
Romanian 128,852 (1.3%) Foreign language and co-official minority language
French 117,121 (1.2%) Foreign language
Italian 80,837 (0.8%) Foreign language
Interestingly enough Romani is not listed. But with a little research I found a number of Romani speakers in Hungary to be about 260,000 or about 2.6% of the population. Hebrew possibly 0.1%

Of course this has absolutely nothing to do with topic at hand. The WWII document will be in German and Hungarian and the Cold War documents will be in Russian and Hungarian. I have Hungarian friends who lived through the Soviet occupation and they were forced to learn Russian. So anyone over the age of 40 more or less will have some knowledge of Russian; which, yes, is not supported above.

Really, really old folks from high class families would very possibly have been raised in German because that was the language of the elite until the mid-nineteenth century as a rule and into the early twentieth century to a lesser degree as Hungarian Nationalism began to shape society.

Posted by
4430 posts

Actually the last European capital liberated from Nazis was not Berlin but Prague.

Posted by
10583 posts

@ James...a lot less contentious topic "languages. True, we can safely assume that once the commie days in East Central and Eastern Europe were gone, English soon afterwards became the language to be taught in secondary schools. Many reasons for this...the coming of the digital age, the increasing Americanization of Europe, globalization, the end of soviet influence, . the western orientation of the former East Bloc political leadership, etc. The result is anyone who was going to be anyone has to learn English. Keep in mind although those over 45 had a good formal education, I would bet they would be unwilling to speak Russian if if they still knew it, esp in Hungary. The main reason is that Russian was imposed in all of East Central Europe.

One other note as it applies to Hungary: the event which we in anglophone historiography call the Compromise of 1867 (der Ausgleich von 1867) making Austria and Hungary a Dual Monarchy, ie Austria-Hungary lasting the end of WW 1, called for German to be still the language of administration, the bureaucracy, and the language of command in the Army. Evidence of that you do see in the Military History Museum in BP; you don't see Russian, unless I missed it, also quite possible. I couldn't have understood it anyway.

Posted by
8545 posts

Fred, I think you are absolutely correct. I suggested the Russian for the Cold War period. I have an acquaintance who was a Russian instructor for the Hungarian military prior to the change. An understanding of Russian was mandatory in the military during the soviet occupation. A lot of the cold war documentation was also kept in Russian as the secret police the AVO were pretty much just soviet puppets. You might enjoy those first two books I highlighted.

But note the position German still holds in Hungary as: co-official minority language. Which is essentially verification of your statements.

And "the increasing Americanization of Europe" is one of the reasons I love Central and Eastern Europe as the impact of the Americanization is less prevalent and its possible to see these cultures closer to a pre Americanization state. Rome is what it is and it will be that for the next 100 years; Central and Eastern Europe are only a few decades from being saturated with sameness.

Posted by
8545 posts

justin.hughes

Another good exercise. Google photos of Budapest in 1945 and then photos of Budapest in 1965 and ask yourself who paid for all that renovation and how that expenditure was or was not consistent with the soviet occupation.

Examples
https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8378/8377875316_771f7579fb_z.jpg
vs
http://thumb1.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/2043188/221622868/stock-photo-budapest-circa-magnificent-chain-bridge-in-beautiful-budapest-szechenyi-lanchid-is-a-221622868.jpg

Posted by
3474 posts

Re Language: We didn't arrange for an English tour of the Grundertzeit Museum in Mahlsdorf, Berlin. The charming woman who gave our German tour explained that when she was in school, the "second language" was ... Russian. So I had to translate for my wife.

Posted by
779 posts

Hungarian 9,896,333 (99.6%) The only official language of Hungary. Of whom 9,827,875 people (98.9%) speak it as a first language, while 68,458 people (0.7%) speak it as a second language.

German 1,111,997 (11.2%) Foreign language and co-official minority language

Romanian 128,852 (1.3%) Foreign language and co-official minority language

Hebrew possibly 0.1%

Of course this has absolutely nothing to do with topic at hand.

Not entirely true. A direct result of WW2 was the redrawing of borders and the biggest ethnic cleansing in Europe, with more than 15+ million expelled people, which turned German into a insignificant minority language, or removed the German element (among others) completely. IMHO these events, between the end of WW2 and the start of the Cold War, should be covered on trips like this too. Of course it's much more difficult to find traces of it, since many societies to this day prefer not to deal with their own guilt. Lidice for example, several times mentioned here, wasn't the biggest massacre of the 20th century in the Czech Republic, that was Postoloprty, where more than twice as many people were killed. But while Lidice was turned into a huge place of remembrance the only hint of the biggest massacre on Czech soil is a small plague on the cemetery that remembers the "innocent victims" of the "events of 1945".
IMHO a tour from Warsaw via Wroclaw to Berlin would be much more rewarding. Warsaw as a symbol of the Polish nation who suffered terribly, Wroclaw as a city who was affected by Polands westward shift and the ethnic cleansings after '45, and Berlin as hotspot of both WW2 and the Cold War.

Posted by
602 posts

Justin: In addition to my prior recommendation that you include Berlin in your study tour, I wish to call your attention to an excellent article in the 1 December 2014 issue of THE NEW YORKER on Angela Merkel ("The Quiet German"). The daughter of a Lutheran Church official, Merkel was born in Hamburg but raised in East Germany, holds a PhD in Quantum Chemistry, and is fluent in Russian. Very interesting account of her rise in German politics, her relationship with Putin, and how she became the "most powerful woman in the world". The article also mentions that Putin was a KGB official stationed in Germany prior to the fall of the Wall, and is fluent in German. The relationship between Russia and Germany is also discussed in the article, which should be required reading for your students.

Posted by
10583 posts

Hi,

If you decide to take the suggestions to include Berlin in this itinerary, either staying with the 3 cities listed above or dropping one of them, you may want to consider this which I recommend for the students. That decision you'll have to make be it out of historical, political, geographical, or moral considerations, ie, which city to drop. . To add to the suggestions on Berlin, there is a museum in Berlin-Karlshorst focusing on German-Russian relations from 1918 to 1945. Get off the S-Bahn at Karlshorst, which is deep in the east beyond Berlin Ostbahnhof, the signs point the way. From Berlin Hbf to Karlshorst is a direct shot taking the S-Bahn.

It has been several years since I was there (2001) so I don't know whether audio-guides are now available. Back then all explanations were only in German, a fascinating history museum seeing and reading all that "stuff"

Posted by
8545 posts

Now don't everyone get all hacked off at me as this is a legitimate question. How much of Berlin that was in place in 1938 is still standing today? I mean standing without having been more than 50% reconstructed. There is a lot more to the educational trip than what this question implies so it may not be that important. I am basically just using the topic to educate myself.

Posted by
4430 posts

James is bringing interesting perspective to this debate. While there are many museums pertaining to WWII in Berlin and Warsaw they are museums. Warsaw and Berlin (and many other towns) were pulverized in WWII and had to be completely rebuilt. Unlike your three cities you chose where you can visit places as they were when the events were happening. To name just two: House of Terror in Budapest. Church of St.Method and Cyril where Heydrich assassins fought their last battle against Nazis.
Martin is also giving different perspective to WWII - suffering of German citizens many of them completely innocent while being expelled from Poland and Czechoslovakia after war. This chapter is almost unknown and omitted in most WWII history books. I must admit that I did not know about Postoloprty massacre and thanks to Martin I read about this and many other excesses on Wikipedia. Not to mention indiscriminate bombing of German cities where even more civilians died than in expulsions.
Nevertheless I still think that you chose your cities right, Justin. Logistically they are easy with direct connections between them, relatively close to each other and also what you see is mostly authentic. Fly open jaw to Prague, back from Budapest or vice versa. If you can somehow squeeze Krakow and nearby Auschwitz into your schedule I would absolutely recommend that. Not much changed there since it was a death factory. Unbelievable what people can do to other people.

Posted by
10583 posts

James has a valid point historically as regards to Berlin. Whether one agrees is another story. Another question to ask is how many of the monuments, sites, etc that you see today were in their historical original places.

Look at a picture book of Greater Berlin of 1925 and you'll see how the city was dramatically changed under the Nazis, the strategic Allied bombing, and under the Soviets. Compare and contrast 1925 with 30 years later. Yes, the Reichstag building and the Brandenburg Gate are still there, refurbished and all that. But the columns of the Gate are not those of 1913, the last year before horrors of the 20th century set in. The Bismarck statue before 1914 stood in front of the Reichstag building, not where it's situated today, almost tucked away. Yes, historic Berlin is eastward from the Brandenburg Gate as well as the "modernization" in the eastern districts, eg, Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte. There are some Central European cities where time will not move as quickly as in others, Berlin is some of both.

Posted by
7649 posts

James' comments on Berlin and the destruction there in WWII, made me remember going there for the day in the early nineties (can't remember the actual year) from Frankfurt/Oder. Berlin was just a huge construction site. I had never seen so many cranes. There was an office for visitors to see the plans for the city's reconstruction but the scope was too big for me to take in. I have not been back since, sad to say. (Note to self: plan trip to Berlin)

Posted by
29465 posts

All the construction in Berlin has been very impressive, and it's one of the most beautiful cities I've visited. The new HBf is an incredible engineering feat (albeit with a few problems), especially considering it's built on a bog. Now if they only get the new airport sorted.....

Posted by
602 posts

Actually, weren't Budapest and Vienna pretty much 'flattened' in WW2, while Prague was virtually untouched? But does it really matter in the context of discussing 'rhetoric of war' and 'remembrance' with a focus on WW2 and the Cold War, and then visiting these amazing cities? If the buildings are no longer there, aren't there usually museums and/or monuments in place? Plus, viewing photos of what places looked like can be a great educational tool. For example, even though many sites in Germany were destroyed in WW2, an interesting web site that has been mentioned many times on this forum is Third Reich in Ruins, which depicts the 'before and after'. Having led study tours (for undergraduates) to Germany (2014) and the Netherlands (2010), I don't understand why, in a 21-day period, adding Berlin to the itinerary is viewed negatively by some? Allowing intercity travel time, certainly 4 to 5 days in each of 4 cities would be more than enough time to visit the most relevant sites. And cost-wise, Berlin is one of the least expensive capitals in Western Europe. Just another train ticket to get there and, if bought 90 days in advance, a group fare can be dirt cheap (my experience with DB on our trip from Berlin to Vechta this past March). I guess a diplomatic approach would be for Justin to also seek some feedback from his students regarding the itinerary.

Posted by
8545 posts

I wasn't being critical or judgemental. Just a question. Yes Buda was hammered pretty hard during the siege. Pest on the other hand came out of it pretty clean all things considered. The one account I read about Pest was that 95% survived the war. My job has given me the opportunity to get into a lot of the structures and it's fascinating to run across evidence of repairs of what we're most likely bomb hits. Speaking of which, most every year they uncover and disarm an unexploded aerial bomb from wwii

And you are correct about the different lesson you get from the differing realities.

Posted by
8545 posts

I wasn't being critical or judgemental. Just a question. Yes Buda was hammered pretty hard during the siege. Pest on the other hand came out of it pretty clean all things considered. The one account I read about Pest was that 95% survived the war. My job has given me the opportunity to get into a lot of the structures and it's fascinating to run across evidence of repairs of what we're most likely bomb hits. Speaking of which, most every year they uncover and disarm an unexploded aerial bomb from wwii

And you are correct about the different lesson you get from the differing realities.

Posted by
602 posts

James: You have a truly amazing amount of knowledge of, and passion for, Budapest and Hungary. Ilja is a strong proponent of Prague. I feel the same way about Vienna, having lived there for 15 months (sabbatical and subsequent fellowship), and recommended Berlin because I have been there twice in the past year and thought it would be well worth including, given the focus of the study tour. Regardless, I think everyone agrees hands down that Justin and his students are going to have an amazing and rewarding experience regardless of the final itinerary!

Posted by
10583 posts

Quite accurate to assert that the history of the "expulsion of the Germans from Central and East-Central Europe" (die Vertreibung) is until recently largely untold in anglophone historiography on WW 2. The relatively recent book "The Battle for Prussia" is a good start on this topic. Both German and anglophone historians and writers have shown a disinclination to touch this topic. This could now be changing.

Posted by
8545 posts

Robert: Thanks. I find Central and Eastern Europe to be a lot more interesting than the west. For me the window in this region looks back deeper into the past. But just me. Those kids will have a blast no matter where; Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria; they are all good for this endeavor.

Fred: AND IT ABSOLUTELY SHOULD BE TOLD. But It can’t be too surprising that such things as Postoloprty had very little impact on the minds of man, at least in the 20th century. Every life is sacred but the world was still trying to come to terms with much, much larger crimes and body counts. Crimes and body counts that knew few borders or restrictions and as such produced a regional outcry as opposed to that of one nation of people. I would suspect as people try and be more introspective that the forces that surrounded the atrocity will be among those considered in trying to develop an understanding that prevents such acts in the future.

Martin suggested that the change in language practice in Hungary was the result of atrocities against ethnic Germans in Hungary; or at least the result of their relocation. Probably true to some extent but the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the loss of all the Saxon settlements in Transylvania combined with Hungarian nationalism had a much more profound impact. Remember the borders of pre-WWI and post WWII Hungary are very significantly different. The damage caused by the treaty of Trianon has still not been put to rest and is banner for the radical groups in Hungary to this day. More profoundly disturbing to me were the actions and behavior and just plain general mindset of the Soviet troops when they entered axis countries. It frightens me a little in that I saw some of that same attitude, although very somber and very deep, while in the Soviet republics before and after the change. As for the German language; a magnificent language that formed most of the great scientific intellect of the 19th and 20th Century. One that any country should be proud to count among its languages; and one that Hungary still recognizes.

I am often told that I am too long winded so I will stop.

Posted by
10583 posts

"The damage caused by the treaty of Trianon...." How true. If one were to point to one country in the post WW 1 settlement where the treaty imposed was the most draconian, punitive with the greatest loss of territory in square mile/km, basically the unfairest in justification, it would be without a doubt that of Hungary.. Trianon took away more territory than was left to Hungary. I had a conversation a couple of years with an Hungarian woman, an attorney, no right wing nationalist, political bigot, etc, just an ordinary patriot, just like we are on the US, and she said of Trianon, this event of 1920, "Trianon tut noch weh." This was in German, ie, that this event still hurts. When one sees on the map how much territory of pre-1914 Hungary was amputated compared to what little was left by 1920, one can see the validity of such a sentiment.

Posted by
4430 posts

Fred, the same thing which happened to Hungary, happened to Austria, too. It was dissolution of Austrian-Hungarian Empire after the lost war. But still, new multinational countries were created: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania (Romania existed but in different, smaller borders). This was one of the causes which lead to WWII during which Nazi Germany dominated almost all of Europe. The late opening of the Second front in the West (D Day in Normandy) enabled the USSR to get too far west and dominate almost all of Eastern Europe and substantial part of Central Europe for over 40 years. Then communism fell and nationalistic war started in some countries which were created from Yugoslavia because there were Serbian enclaves in Croatia and Bosnia. I think it is impossible to create purely ethnic states in that part of Europe. One almost has to ask the question if it would have not been better not to break Austrian Hungarian Empire but instead just reform it. It could have worked. See example of Switzerland. Then I believe the WWII would not have happened and consequently communism in Eastern and Central Europe would have been avoided, too.

Posted by
10583 posts

@ Ilja...totally agree. If we talk in the subjunctive, contrary to fact statements like if the the Empire had been able to reform itself to the satisfaction of its Slavic minorities, (that's a tremendous "If," then the Empire would not have collapsed. That also presupposes the minorities, such as the Czechs, were willing to give up their aspirations for independence. Certainly, the injustices, chauvinism, shortcomings of the Empire, nothing cannot be compared to the absolute horrors, the cycle of violence, and suffering inflicted during WW 2 and the Expulsion that followed.

Posted by
2 posts

I would say don't miss the annual (25 years) Freedom festival held in Pilzen CZK every first weekend in May.Pilzen celebrates being liberated by 3rd US army and George Patton on May 6th, 1945, with the specific theme- thank you America. The displays and parade offer the finest collection of WWII military equipment and memorabilia I have ever seen actually running. The effect is almost like being there in May 1945. Re-enactors now come from all over Europe to join in. See their website Pilzen Liberation festival. D. Dvorsky

Posted by
3031 posts

Justin,
Once you have nailed down your cities, check out a site named "thirdreichruins.com" that shows the then and now photos of places all over Europe. Might be interesting if there are photos of the cities you will visit. TC

Posted by
10583 posts

That monument to Patton's liberation of Pilsen is exactly what I saw I in June 2001, when I specifically made a day trip from Nürnberg by train (not a bus then) to Pilzen with passport checks for that very purpose. Interesting architecture at the Pilzen train station.

The distance from the Pilzen train station to the American monument is walkable. It proves that US troops could have easily reached Prague had they not been specifically ordered to stop at the Linz-Pilsen line.