One excursion that really resonated with me was the concentration camp visit. It related to our studies in terms of both intercultural communication and global health. The atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust and that were shown through this tour were very intense. I really struggled as I went through the “death factory” with the group, but at the same time, I feel as if it was something I needed to see.
The connection I felt between this tour and intercultural communication stemmed from a few different areas. First, I felt a lot of the perspectives of Nazi leadership—specifically Hitler—could have been cleared up with better intercultural communication. They persecuted Jews, Romanians, members of the LGTBQ community, and more. Their basis was disgusting, but maybe if they better understood the cultures that surrounded them in Europe they wouldn’t have done such terrible things. That being said, I’ve been told I’m naïve so I would like to avoid reducing the atrocities to poor communication. However, better communication may have helped.
Second, I felt better communication between the allied powers could have helped avoid the large-scale atrocities of the Holocaust. Countries could have worked together to take in more of the Jewish refugees early on, and they could have communicated better in understanding what was really happening in Germany and the surrounding countries. This lack of communication and planning allowed the problems to completely spiral out of control.
Finally, I feel that better intercultural communication needs to be used in navigating the modern stance on the memorialization of the events vs. forgetting about them and moving on. A new far-right party has found its way into the German Parliament and is very vocal. They want everyone to forget about the Holocaust and move on. The majority of the country probably does not want this, but the style currently used in passing that message along didn’t work because the party made it into parliament. If the country steps back and establishes a better method of voicing their opposition to this new “Nazi-culture” so as to avoid more problems down the line; things may improve.
From a global health perspective, I recognized atrocities throughout the camps. Experiments were run on humans, living conditions were atrocious, and malnourishment was a major problem. If better communication had been used between the allied powers, maybe things could have been stopped earlier. This would have helped eliminate the global health problems faced by workers in the camps from all over Europe.
The work/concentration camp was a moving experience that I found connected back to the lessons of the classroom. It was very intense, but I think it was a necessity for me to have that experience. It helped in popping my sheltered American bubble.