Daily Dispatches

Disbelief and inaction: press failure during WWII

By S. Parker Yesko The press is in the business of packaging complex stories into neat parcels of information designed for easy public consumption. Often this means that the journalist quickly processes a multi-dimensional saga through flat narrative tropes. When a hurricane strikes, it’s a story of man versus nature. When famine or violence drives […]

Photography, selfies and mass murder

By Katelyn Verstraten Selfie sticks waving in the air. Cellphone cameras flashing. Teenagers making peace signs. It’s an overcast May afternoon and tourists are photographing a site in Berlin. But this isn’t just any tourist destination: this is the Topography of Terror, a location that once housed the SS, SD and Gestapo headquarters, and where the […]

Pasts captured, pasts uncovered

The Topography of Terror once housed the SS, SD and Gestapo headquarters -- and is where the Nazis planned the extermination of millions. (Katelyn Verstraten/FASPE)

A single block of Zimmerstrasse — a less than five-minute walk along 1,000 feet of what was once the Berlin Wall—separates two very different reminders of Berlin’s past. On one end is the Topography of Terror and on the other is Checkpoint Charlie.

Holocaust survivor speaks to FASPE fellows

By Lex Talamo At the Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind in Berlin, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor surveyed the group of listeners before her. Hair perfectly coiffed, a string of pearls around her neck, and a touch of blue eye shadow highlighting her bright eyes, Inge Deutschkron told the group to “SHOUT!” as they […]

The critical few at “Track 17” and the House of the Wannsee Conference

By Laura Smith At FASPE, we often discuss how small, committed groups of people can orchestrate events—for good or ill. On Thursday, May 28, the FASPEans saw a positive example of this. While visiting the Deportation Memorial, “Track 17,” in Berlin, Thorsten Wagner, the European director of FASPE, told the fellows that lobbying for remembrance […]

Understanding “the Jesus Christ of nations”

by Krzysztof Sadomski May 29 is a day of travel for the FASPE fellows, not only in the literal, factual sense, but in a metaphorical one. It is time to leave Berlin—the capital of Nazi Germany, where the Holocaust was coordinated—and to enter Kraków, one of the most important cities in Poland, the country that […]

Fact-checking the vulnerable

By Joanna Plucinska Journalists often see their role as giving voice to the voiceless. But in reporting on vulnerable or traumatized individuals, we are at risk of further victimizing our subjects if we don’t report their stories ethically. Vulnerable populations are broadly defined. They can be, among other groups, the elderly, the young, the traumatized, […]

Art and photography at Auschwitz

By Jessica Davey-Quantick There is an image of fuzzy kittens cavorting on the wall of one of the bathrooms at Auschwitz 1. “Prisoners did it,” says Pawel Sawicki, who works in the press office at Auschwitz. He calls the kittens “semi-official art”: art that was not exactly approved, but likely did not attract punishment. In […]

From the platform to the birch forest: retracing victims’ steps at Birkenau

By Alyssa Creamer Roughly 40 people stood around a bus outside a hotel in Oświęcim, Poland, many solemn and quiet because they had visited the first of two concentration camps—preserved now as museums—the day before. Squinting in the sunlight, they waited for instructions before departing for the second, Auschwitz II-Birkenau. A small, seemingly offhand comment […]

Holocaust tourism

By Alexandra Levine A number of telephone poles around Kraków are plastered with a large, bright blue flier advertising trips to Auschwitz, the largest Nazi German concentration camp and death camp of World War II. The woman in the ad—smiling ear to ear, eyes wide with excitement—poses in front an ominous, barbed-wire fence that 70 […]

Reasoning and cruelty

By Kristian Jebsen On the road between Oświęcim and Bielsko-Biala sits an unassuming house with a well-kept backyard. A golden Labrador patrols the premises, barking as people pass. It appears a normal residence, until one gets close enough to see the familiar craned, concrete necks of the old concentration camp fence, marking the edge of […]

Bearing witness through photography

By Lindsey Anderson Disclaimer: This post contains an image that may be disturbing to some viewers.  Gruesome images have existed as long as photography has, but they seem to have pervaded modern life because of social media. On Facebook or YouTube, viewers can find videos of Islamic State militants viciously killing prisoners or photographs of […]