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Daily Dispatches

The end of the track

The track in Birkenau which led to the ramp. There the process of selection took place. Photo by Anna Siatka.

By Anna Siatka Imagine one day you just lock the door of your house, take a suitcase with your most important belongings, and together with your husband and children go to a new place that is supposed to be a paradise. Deserted green fields, forests, birdsong, wild deer. Sounds like a picturesque landscape. After a […]

At Auschwitz and Elsewhere, the Trouble with Troubling Photographs

Moments before this woman was killed by American military troops during the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, her picture was snapped by photojournalists who would later publish the image in Life Magazine. “Maybe this isn’t the way these people would want to show their face to the world,” said Kate Newman, journalism master’s student at New York University. Photo by Ronald S. Haeberle/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

By MARTINE POWERS OWIECIM, POLAND—The FASPE journalists had seen the images many times in the preceding week: A series of blurry photographs, snapped clandestinely in a corner of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. And still, it was unsettling to see the photos displayed at the spot where they were taken on the camp grounds: A fuzzy […]

Auschwitz I Photo Slideshow

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Photos by Karen Petree.

Always a Victim? Polish National Identity

Professor Zdzislaw Mach from Jagiellonian University talks to FASPE journalism and law fellows about the role that Polish national identity played during the Holocaust. Photo by Dustin Volz

BY STAV ZIV KRAKOW—When the FASPE fellows arrived in Krakow, the Jews among us boosted the Jewish population of the city by 5 to 10 percent. We were surprised to learn that there are only some 200 Jews living here today and perhaps 5,000 in all of Poland. But during the interwar period, Poland was […]

Journalism’s ‘Bad Guy’ Problem


By KATE WILKINSON BERLIN—The FASPE program deals a lot with big numbers. Six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. Ninety percent of Poland’s 3.3 million Jews dead. Overall, 14 million people killed in Eastern Europe during the Second World War. We’ve been overwhelmed by these and other numbers. As we’ve been diving deeper into the […]

Where History and Memory Collide

The Remuh Cemetery, or Old Jewish Cemetery of Krakow, was largely destroyed by Nazis during the German occupation of Poland. Reconstruction efforts have restored parts of the cemetery, where a number of prominent Polish Jews are buried.  Photo by Dustin Volz

By SAMANTHA PICKETTE BERLIN–We faced a tough question on our last day in Berlin: Do you fact-check a Holocaust survivor before you publish his or her story? Take the case of Binjamin Wilkomirski, the author of the highly contested Holocaust memoir, Fragments, published in 1995. Wilkomirski claimed to have survived Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau as a […]

‘Tragedy Porn’ and the Complicated Work of Reporting on Violence

Image courtesy of DFID - UK Department for International Development used under the Creative Commons license.

By LEAH FINNEGAN KRAKOW — In her 2010 book The Crisis Caravan, Linda Polman, a Dutch freelance journalist, explored the ethical dilemmas of reporting on human rights issues. How can a journalist — specifically, an outsider journalist — approach a foreign humanitarian crisis responsibly? It’s not easy, Polman concludes, and many outlets don’t do it […]

Schindler For Sale

Holocausttourism-dustinpic-for graham story

By GRAHAM CLARK KRAKOW—At the dawn of World War II, Jews made up about one-quarter of the city’s population. Today, there are some 200 left. But in Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter, tourists see many restaurants and other attractions that focus on Jewish heritage. Depending on who is asked, the neighborhood has either been revitalized […]

‘How Far Are You Willing to Go?’


By DUSTIN VOLZ BERLIN—The U.S. government’s drone strikes are quick, efficient, and lethal. These guided missiles accurately target foreign terrorist suspects seeking to harm Americans and help keep troops out of harm’s way, administration officials say. But these attacks, which have increased exponentially under President Obama, have incurred unseen collateral damage—hundreds of children with foreign-sounding […]

The Epicenter Of Nazi Cruelty

An iconic fragment of the Berlin Wall on the Niederkirchnerstrasse 8. Photo by Anna Siatka.

By ANNA SIATKA BERLIN—To most modern-day tourists, it’s an unfamiliar address: Niederkirchnerstrasse 8, in central Berlin. But when it comes to Holocaust history, the site is notorious. It was the headquarters of Nazi cruelty. The first view is of a partly destroyed section of the Berlin Wall, which once divided the city into East and […]

The Trouble With Codes

A postcard sent to Otto Weidt from Alice Licht, who was imprisoned at Theresienstadt. Photo by Alison Sargent.

BY ALISON SARGENT BERLIN—In 1942 a group of Nazi leaders convened at a mansion on the shores of lake Wannsee to work out the details of “the final solution” for the extermination of Europe’s Jews. But the Wannsee Conference Protocol never uses the word “murder.” The Nazis were masters of doublespeak; in early 1940s Germany […]

Wannsee House: History and Memory

Memorial to German Jews deported by the Nazis at the Berlin-Grunewald train station. Photo by Stav Ziv.

BY KATE NEWMAN BERLIN—On the bus ride through western Berlin this morning, the city’s leafy boulevards and balconied apartments turned into Grunewald’s gracious, almost palatial homes. “You can think of this area as something like the Westchester of Germany,” commented Thorsten Wagner, European director of FASPE. We soon arrived at a large house in Wannsee, […]

A Synagogue That Survived

Neue Synagogue.

BY DANIELLE TCHOLAKIAN BERLIN—After a red-eye flight from JFK to Berlin-Tegel, FASPE journalism and law fellows dropped luggage off at our hotel and set out to explore the city on foot and train with FASPE European Director Thorsten Wagner as our guide. We took the S-Bahn, a subway, to the Neue Synagogue, a soaring Orientalist […]

What Milgram’s Shock Experiment Can – and Can’t – Tell Us About the Holocaust

Image courtesy of Flickr user OMGPonies, used under the Creative Commons license.

BY STAV ZIV NEW YORK—To what extent can human behavior during the Holocaust be explained in a laboratory setting? Stanley Milgram, an American social psychologist, thought he’d accomplished the feat with a series of experiments on obedience that quickly became notorious. Working at Yale University in the early 1960s, Milgram created a test that appeared […]

The Quotidian Details of Horror

The view from the front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. Photo by Karen Petree

BY KAREN PETREE NEW YORK—The greatest lesson of the FASPE program started with a shiny metal cooking pot, just under four quarts. It was well cared for and polished with thin edges. Other than the fact that it was on display in a museum, there was nothing remarkable about it. On our first day of […]

In Berlin, What Makes a Memorial?

Dustin Volz, journalist for the National Journal, peers into the memorial to 1933 book burnings on Bebelplatz.

BY MARTINE POWERS BERLIN—Each idea sounded more outrageous than the next: A Ferris wheel erected in the center of the city, each gondola replaced by a macabre cattle car. The total destruction of the Brandenburg Gate — blown to bits by explosives, its pieces ground to dust and spread throughout the city. Neither of those […]