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Holocaust and WWII trip

Can anyone recommend a cruise or tour that would more or less focus on the Holocaust and WWII. Very interested in history and I wo8ld like to see the Concentration camps. As well as sites about the Nazis and WWII. I am already going to see Normandy and London this August.. Next trip I might like to start in Amsterdam. But Poland I know is land locked.

Michelle

Posted by
2821 posts

Hi Michelle,
Although I can't comment on a cruise I can recommend Jewish Walking Tours. One of our goals is to tour Jewish/WWll history when we travel. Our most recent (2019) was in Amsterdam. jewishamsterdamtour.com. We highly recommend historian Naomi Koopmans.
In addition to her tour we visited The excellent Resitance Museum and Anne Frank House on our own.

Other guided tours we've taken and recommend: Prague, Terezin Concentration Camp, Budapest, Rome, Venice, Florence, Athens, Paris, just to name a few. I would be happy to provide websites if interested.

Posted by
5984 posts

Not sure what you mean by landlocked. You can (or at least could) fly direct from a few places in N America to Warsaw. I've only been to Auschwitz in Poland, but have looked into visiting others. What I understand is that most of the camps were razed to the ground so that there are only memorials, no restored buildings. I will say that you can spend days at the Warsaw Rising museum, the Ghetto Rising museum, and various memorials just in Warsaw. Then there's the Schindler factory museum in Krakow, if you know that story.

You could probably look at some Jewish history websites and find links to tour companies. I will send a PM with one recommendation.

Posted by
21219 posts

I think the best source would be the World War II museum in New Orleans. They offer all kinds of tours specifically gear to WWII and Europe. They are a very good resource for WWII. Send them a contribution and you will be on their mailing list forever. See schedule at ww2museumtours.org

Posted by
3480 posts

Since you are interested in "...sites about the Nazis and WWII...", check out this site. www.thirdreichruins.com. It shows many photos of places during or shortly after the war. It then shows comtemporary photos of the same day.

Posted by
17986 posts

Poland I know is land locked.

Poland was landlocked, but that changed recently. You might want to update your history books.

For a lttle over 200 years, Prussia occupied the entire south Batlic coast, blocking Poland's access to the Baltic Sea. After the first World War, in one of the compromises that were supposed to prevent more wars, Poland was granted a 90 mile wide corridor, reconnecting it to the sea. Danzig was still a German port town, but East Prussia was cut off from the rest of German. Since WWII, Poland's access has been widened; Danzig is now named Gdansk, and is a Polish port town. East Prussia was annexed to Russia as the Kaliningrad Oblast.

Posted by
2157 posts

Poland's northern border is along the Baltic sea...I have travelled independently to see various Holocaust and WWII sites and would caution that whatever plans you make be sure to intersperse visits to concentration camps and related museums with other more happy activities as my trip to Poland was at once both fascinating and extremely sad, a sort of weary profound sadness that lingered long after I came home. I expected that. Day after day of seeing what damage the Germans wrought got to be overwhelming. Krakow included a day trip to Auschwitz and a visit to the Schindler factory and walking around the Kazimierz district where the Jewish ghetto and cemeteries are located, Warsaw had resistance memorials and statues all over the old town, as well as the Musuem of the History of Polish Jews. Gdansk now has a WWII museum but it wasn't open when I visited, though I did take a boat ride out to see the Westerplatte where the Germans fired on Poland in 1939.

Amsterdam included visiting Anne Frank's house and the excellent Resistance museum.

Munich was an easy train ride to Dachau--possibly more disturbing than Auschwitz as the gas chambers and ovens are totally intact and you can walk right into the rooms--and also to Nuremberg where there's the Documentation Center Museum located on the Nazi party rally grounds, which I also explored...they are vast. I didn't have time to visit the courthouse where the trials were held.

My favorite WWII experience in London was the Churchill War Rooms and the adjacent section devoted to his life. I have also taken the train to spend a day at Bletchley Park, if you are intrigued by the people who broke the Enigma code.

Posted by
3196 posts

I don't know how deeply you want to get into the Holocaust but for tours you really are going to have to look at the ones offered by Jews, search for "Israel holocaust tours" or similar words, these I just turned up with google

https://www.theworldthatwas.org/sampleitinerary

https://arzaworld.com/jewish-heritage-tours/eastern-europe-tours/9-day-jewish-tour-of-poland.aspx

I've never seen extensive Holocaust tours offered except for those that focus on Jewish tour groups.

Posted by
18923 posts

The Imperial War Museum in London is excellent and has a relatively new exhibition about the holocaust.

The already-mentioned WWII museum in Gdansk is large. I spent about 20 hours there, watching every bit of English-language or English-subtitled video. On one of my visits I ran into a bit of a delay at the ticket counter, so those on tight schedules might want to buy their tickets online. As far as I know, there's no need do that days (much less weeks) in advance; I'm just suggesting it as a way to avoid standing in line.

If your historical interest happens to extend to the Cold War era, as mine does, I also highly recommend the Solidarity Center in Gdansk. It was a full-day stop for me. A lot of the capitals formerly behind the iron curtain have museums/memorials related to Cold War events and suppression of human rights during the period of soviet influence. This is especially true of Berlin, which has many such sights, but there are also interesting possibilities in Budapest (House of Terror, which sometimes has a ticket line), Prague (Museum of Communism), Warsaw (multiple sights), and even Timisoara (Romania).

Traditional guidebooks will not necessarily mention the secondary sites you may want to include. You'll uncover some by following links on the Internet. It's worth checking the InYourPocket website to see whether those folks have downloadable guides to cities you plan to visit; they may tip you off to sights not widely mentioned in tourist literature.

I want to second the suggestion that you not plan a trip that is solely focused on the war and the holocaust. I've been to a lot of the places you will want to go, but they have been spread out over four trips totaling at least 9 months, so it's not like I was dealing with the grimmest aspects of modern history every day. Even so, I still think of my 2018 trip (over 3-1/2 months in former iron curtain countries) as my "man's inhumanity to man" trip.

Posted by
2597 posts

I looked at Poland tours a couple of years ago. The two that appealed most to me (and that I think might be a good fit for you) are...

Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours, founded by the now-deceased historian, offers a "WWII Poland and Germany Tour." The tour spends the vast majority of its time in Poland. https://stephenambrosetours.com/tour/wwii-poland-and-germany-tour/

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans offers tours. The museum offers a great-looking (but a little rushed) tour entitled "The Rise and Fall of Hitler's Germany." It spends 3 nights in Berlin and 8 nights in Poland. It was created by and "features" Alexandra Richie, who wrote the recommended Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler and the Warsaw Uprising. It looks like the two dates for the tour in 2021 are sold out. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/2021_Rise_and_Fall_Museum_36pgs_REV3_SPREADS.pdf

I remember seeing one tour that hit a bunch of concentration camps in Poland... it looked like a recipe for severe depression.

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Michelle,

I did a WWII and Holocaust custom-made tour in 2018. I had previously been to Dachau, but this was for research for a WWII novel.
You have been given a lot of great advice. IMHO, the WWII Museum in Gdansk is the best overall of any I have seen. In Krakow, the Schindler Museum and of course Auschwitz are the top two experiences. We stayed in Kazmierz in 2014 which will give you access to some of the Jewish sites (synagogues, cemeteries, etc.) We also went to the Museum of the Armia Krajowa in Krakow. That is one that most people don't go to but they have some really amazing displays. The Armia Krajowa was the AK or Polish partisan underground.

I also went to Rzeszow and visited their two museums. One has a large display for WWII. An hour away is Blizna, which is a museum dedicated to what the SS and Nazis were doing with the VI and VII missiles. This site was their testing area. My grandparents' home was just a 15 minute walk from the launching area. Not too far is Pustkow, a concentration camp.

I've written for POLIN, the Warsaw Museum of the History of Polish Jews, but I haven't been there. That's my next trip. I would take a walking tour that includes some of the prisons that the Nazis and the Russians used.

BTW- go to DonnaGawell dot com to see lots of advice on visiting Poland and WWII history. I've written two historical novels set in Poland during WWII and edited "Poland Under Nazi Rule: 1939-1941."
You are really wise to visit Poland for WWII history. It was truly the epicenter of the war. We don't know much about it here in the USA because Poland was under the Iron Curtain until 1989.

Posted by
163 posts

Yes, I have only recently learned that over half the Jews that were killed were from Poland. I had always thought of most Jews that were killed from Germany. I guess because of movies like Dairy of Anne Frank, Voyage of the Damned and there was a TV mini series called The Holocaust. Meryl Streep was one of the actresses in her early career. II guess there movies were not entirely accurate but they di at least give the public and interest in remembering and knowing what happened. as i recall there was also a movie called Sophie's Choice that was about Poland.

Shidler's List was also about Poland. I know that was based on some real events. What I did not understand was why the Nazis had him to make pots and then closed him down? Why did he have to change to making bullets and why did he have to move his business? He apparently most deliberately produced defective product, so as not to help the Nazis but to waste their resources. I know he went broke doing this.. But he did save many lives in doing so. I know he lived the rest of his life on the charity of some of the Jews he helped. He had a drinking problem and I think felt guilt.. It is too bad he did not realize that deep down he was a good man and choose good over evil. That is what counts.

Posted by
20 posts

Poland is a most interesting country to learn about WWII because its Russian occupiers manipulated the history and it didn't start to be corrected until Poland gained freedom in 1989. BTW- Poland has far more Righteous Among the Nation designees than any other country. Far more could have been nominated but it was unsafe to be recognized as a rescuer by the Russians. Sometime, research cursed or doomed soldiers to learn about what happened to the brave Polish partisans of WWII.

Posted by
1424 posts

I have taken two tours with JayWay Travel (https://jaywaytravel.com/), including to Poland in 2019. They specialize in central and eastern Europe. They are not a traditional tour company. They help you put together custom tours, and they take care of all the logistics, such as making hotel and train reservations for you and arranging tours, with everything paid in advance so you don't have to worry about paying as you go. But the actual travel experience is entirely independent. Of course, you can also add your own activities to the ones they include, and you have complete flexibility to go with their recommendations or select alternatives. (Their recommendations are almost completely excellent.)

I believe if you contact them and tell them what you're interested in, they could help you build an itinerary that would be perfect for you.

Posted by
4906 posts

Many WWII tours for Americans tend to focus on things like the Normandy invasion. It may be hard to find a package that meets your needs, even as 50% of a package tour or cruise. I have a research link for you from this newsboard, but it is about places, not tour providers:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/czech/the-rhetoric-of-war-and-remembrance-focused-on-wwii-and-the-cold-war

You don't make it clear whether completely independent travel is not desired. Two adjacent countries (like Germany and Poland, for example) could provide more sites than you could see in three or four weeks, if you are willing to do it independently. Covid-19 aside, there are certainly locations (like Auschwitz) that absolutely have to be booked in advance. But there are almost equally terrifying camps that can be walked into, and even (like Buchenwald) on local bus routes from a big city.

Maybe you know that Amsterdam has a superb Resistance museum, just steps away from their deportation memorial, a ruined theater. But such things are all over Europe. Even a pastoral, family-outing location like the fortress in Besancon, France, has an equally superb Resistance museum among its multiple visit opportunities. We were just strolling around Arnhem, Netherlands (I guess we did go for the "bridge", but the third bridge to sit on that crossing since 1935 isn't really that satisfying an attraction, if you see what I mean ... ) when we passed a building with a large plaque, in Dutch. I don't know Dutch, but my German is good enough that I could read that this building had been the SS headquarters during the occupation. I don't think it was in the Lonely Planet Netherlands that I was using.

Posted by
5984 posts

I'll throw in another sight: the Wolf's Lair in NE Poland. Hitler's Eastern Front headquarters. I've not been but here its worth a visit for history buffs.