On Thursday, the tour of the ConVal exchange students started on a somber historical note but ended with a fun exploration of a German amusement park.
“We started the day visiting Dachau, the former concentration camp,” Frau Hodgdon reported. Established in 1933 about a half-hour ride northwest of Munich, Dachau served as a model for other concentration camps that were later established throughout Nazi Germany. The camp became infamous for the atrocities committed against prisoners, primarily political dissidents, homosexuals, Jews, and other minority groups considered undesirable by the Nazi regime. The camp was also used for medical experimentation and served as a training ground for SS personnel who would later staff other concentration camps.
“It is a heavy place meant for contemplation and I am glad we started the day this way. German students are required by law to visit a concentration camp with school and I am glad students got to see something they had only read about,” Frau Hodgdon noted. The school visits to concentration camps are part of Germany’s “Vergangeheitsbewältigung,” a continuing, national effort of confronting and coping with the country’s World War II past.
The next stop was a tour of downtown Munich and the Marienplatz to have lunch and get some shopping done. “After that, we went to the BMW World, which is like a showroom for all of the BMW products including the Mini, Rolls Royce, and all their motorcycles,” Frau Hodgdon continued.
“Next we headed to the Olympic Park and went up the Olympic Tower where we had a great view of the city. Finally, we headed to the ‘Frühlingsfest,’ which is a smaller version of Oktoberfest, just in the spring. The kids had a great time and were interested in the comparisons between German and American carnivals.”
“Throughout the day, various students were in charge of getting us from one point to another and they did a great job navigating subway, bus, and train maps.”