My Experience in Germany

The best experience of the entire trip was getting to know my classmates and experiencing Europe with them. Mingling with my classmates began at the beginning of the semester when we were assigned to various groups to give presentations prior to travel. It has been a long time since I have been randomly assigned to groups and did not automatically choose to give a presentation with my best friend in the class, so the random group assignments was a good introduction to what life would be like traveling with my classmates. Although we all had class together once a week every week of the semester leading up to the trip, traveling with a group of people forces everyone to learn a lot about each other. Also, everyone seemed to look out for one another. I knew that if I needed to, I could ask someone to watch my luggage and rest assured that they would not leave it alone. We always asked the group if anybody needed anything. The best times were spent when everyone chose to all be together during our free times. The other best times were spent when everyone broke up into small groups. I learned to figure out who was interested in doing the same things I wanted to do, and stick with that person or people to make sure that I accomplished my goals. It is important to be assertive in order to ensure that you have an opportunity to do everything you want to do, but it is equally as important to be open to new ideas and other peoples’ agendas. However, wandering around in a big group was usually a fun option because we could all experience different things together and if one person wanted to do something the rest of us had not thought of, it opened our eyes to new experiences and things to explore. One of the best group activities that most of us participated in during our free time was the Heineken Tour in Amsterdam. Our group of SIU Law students got split up into two tour groups. During the tour, the guides asked a few questions and whoever answered the questions got a free Heineken sample. It was not surprising that in both groups that SIU Law students were a part of, all of the samples went to SIU Law students. Maybe it’s our attention to detail, but there is one thing I know is certain: When free Heineken is involved, we are all gunners. Getting to know my classmates and having to travel with them was just as important as the actual European experiences. The buddy system was taken to a whole new level because we did not have the luxury of being able to call or text each other if we were concerned that somebody may be lost. Everybody seemed to have a good time, and I came away form this trip making some new friends and forming closer friendships with the friends I already had.



Ode to Germany!

This is my attempt at writing a poem about Germany. I call it Ode to Germany

It began with an idea by Dean Fountaine

She said to herself

I want these students in St. Germaine!

Oh, how do I do it, I seriously wonder

To get these students in the land beyonder

I got it! I know! I will create a class!

Students will come

They’ll have a blast!

And so it began

in the quiet of night

Her thoughts A-storimin

Her plans took flight

Like the mighty horations who fought temptation

The Dean thought and taught Legal Globalization

And soon it existed,

the prerequisites defined

3 credit hours required

3 grand assigned

And slowly the students filled up the roster

Her favorite, John Schroeder, helped guide like Chaucer

No, wait, that’s not right

he’s no Brandon

Four miles for Gelato?!

We’re lost again!

But before I continue, I must impart

A few words about Candice

So dear to our hearts

She’s brilliant and kind

So many words to say

She’s like Jenna and Kathy

With their attaché

Suddenly, I found myself with Smiling Mich

In deep conversation about the Third Reich

That was ‘bout the time when Jessica imposed

The watch store in Munich, she desired to go

Much aid was needed, our dialects impaired

I confess I was so unprepared

To our rescue, came Kim, our German linguist

A person, I thought, spoke only English

In Munich we stayed for three whole days,

Old Geigler heard Nuremburg was the place,


Thus, the trains we boarded on the memorial trail!

Some deeply concerned about a system fail

Yet on our journey, the steeds held true

Denny’s predictions of derailment sadly fell through!

No trip would be complete without T-BOW aboard

I kept telling him to stop screaming, “A-starboard!”

I guess the legends are true, about the Navy I mean

Once done with their ships,

They’re on the dialysis machine!

Back in the states, I recalled and reminisced

Chelsea was there, and a man from Texas

In the hotel they stayed, and drank till 3

I am sure they spoke about their histories

In the midst of the moment, Kathleen appeared.

She was in Schrnakla trying smoked beer

Justin came too, but in Amsterdam

Several delicious cheeses

for his pet hamster named SAM!

For those of you who remain unconvinced

O’shall I go visit Ms. Justice?

I can only say what I know

But for ten days, I promise, you’ll have a lot to show

You’ll see courts and lords

and strange places

And several other exotic locations

For those of you with the desire,

There is time for canal rides

with the local town crier

I went to church a thousand years old,

And prayed to God in a temple so old

I stopped to see justice in her multi-lingual form

There, a person speaking 4 languages

was truly the norm

I’ve had coffee in Bamberg and watched the river,

My peers rejoiced in the variety of liquors

Indeed, the libations are ever present,

But it’s the company that made it so ever pleasant

It seems my time is at an end

So long, farewell, and goodbye my friends

Before I go I am forced to say,

I will miss those with whom I went away!

Times are hard

Ain’t the truth!

  • Written by: JS

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Today was a very sobering day. Laughter and joking instantly subsided as our group stepped off the bus and approached the sign that read Dachau Concentration Camp. When a person’s automatic reaction is to consciously become silent out of respect you know you are in a place with a powerful and sobering history.
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This picture is the entrance to the camp. Before going in the tour guide explained that only 43,000 people died here. He made note that he said “only” because in comparison to all the other camps this was a very low number. Dachau was an internment camp not an extermination camp like Auschwitz where over 200,000 people were killed.

Dachau was termed the “first place for political prosioners” by Heinrich Himmler and was the prototype model for the other Nazi concentration camps that followed. The camp was divided into two sections, the camp area and the crematoria area. The camp area is where the barracks were located, the administration and the support buildings ( kitchen, laundry and showers). The area between the kitchen and the prison was used for execution of prisoners.

The International Monument designed by Nandor Glid is one the commemorates life at Dachau. The tour guide mentioned that the statute reflected how people would run for the electrified wires of the fence in hopes to end their lives and end their time in the camp. Below is my picture and then another close up that I found from a website.

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Notice the hands of the skeletons which resemble the barbs on a barbed wire fence. The sculpture is approximately 48 feet wide and 19 feet tall. It symbolizes the emaciated bodies of the prisoners who died of starvation and disease in the camp.

The sculpture is made of dark bronze. It features short strands of barbed wire on which skeletons are hanging with their heads dangling sharply. On either side of the sculpture are concrete fence posts which closely resemble the ones actually used to support the barbed wire fence around the camp.



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The above picture is of the beds in the camp. Originally made for one person to each bed, as the camp became overcrowded the ratio became 3 to a bed. The tour guide explained that this might be hard to imagine 3 full grown adults to one bed, however, when you remember that these adults had diminished to just 60lbs that it becomes a lot easier to fit 3 adults in one bed. Originally built to hold 250 prisoners each, the average was instead close to 1,600. On the day that we were there it was fairly chilly. I was wearing a winter coat and gloves and I was still cold in dormitory. There was no source of heat in these buildings and I am guessing that the prisoners were not as warmly dressed as I was.

The final picture, the one below, is the one I really think is worth a thousand words. Of all the pictures I took from the tour and all of the information received from the tour guide the picture below, to me, explains everything. If I were only able to show one picture and give no description of what I saw I would present people with the following picture. The picture begs an emotional response. The picture does not let you forget the horrible things that happened in concentration camps. The picture gives you an image that makes you remember so that you cannot forget and that is an absolutely necessary response.

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Words cannot even begin to sum up the broad array of feelings that I experienced while being at Dachau Concentration Camp. Even though I have read much literature regarding the horrors that occurred under the Nazi regime in many concentration camps across Europe, being there provides an unparalleled glimpse of what the people who endured these sufferings saw through there own eyes. To me, this was very powerful. The spectrum of thoughts and emotions that I was overwhelmed with ranged from guilt to fear to compassion.

Guilt: As a fellow human being, although many of the people who were part of the tragedy are no longer with us, I still felt a deep remorse that we, people in general, could commit such atrocities against humanity. Upon entry through what was left of the heavy metal gates, my breath was taken away. There, right in front of me, was an endless see of gravel where many of the 40,000 people who perished at this location were required to stand at attention for hours on end every day. Immediately my mind was flooded with the thought of how could this happen?! How could we do this to our fellow people? I quickly came to another question; do we, today, view the world much differently than people did just 70 years ago? Our wonderful tour guide eventually answered both of the latter questions, which I will address this momentarily.

Fear: Was Dachau a product of fear? I believe the answer is undoubtedly yes. I firmly believe that Dachau was a product of fear stemming from the German population; fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of not being what it once was, a people that were once respected. At the time, in the early to mid 1930’s, Germany was just getting on track under Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s whole plan was predicated upon fear; a fear that the people as a whole were not living up to their potential as a master race. In a grand attempt to bring his country back to glory, Hitler did just that. His whole plan was based on fear and it unfortunately worked marvelously. That leads me to how easily that this could happen again. If one looks around the world, it is not hard to see where this would happen. All that is needed is a struggling country looking for someone to ascend and elevate themselves above the masses and lead them out of their rut.

Compassion: While walking around the grounds, I realized a lot about how terrible the whole situation was for millions of people across Europe, but with that, I also realized that are true nature as humans is one of compassion. Not only did I succumb to emotions during the trip, it was evident that everyone else walking around the grounds had done the same as well. There was very little talking. With that, I think that we all realized how much life is worth, how precious and fragile we are, and how easy it can all vanish.

With the above being said, I must spend a moment to try and capture the closing remarks of our tour guide. I will not be able to do this moment justice with the mere use of words. We were all standing in a group with the sun on our backs as our guide reached in his backpack and pulled out a picture. I looked at his face while he was pulling out the picture and I could see the glistening of tear running down the side of his face. Whether this was from emotion, or from the wind, I will never know. But, he subsequently produced a picture of many people standing, confined behind barbed wire. He explained that he felt it was his duty to work to save others after learning so much about his own people. He then held up the picture and told our group of students that it is now our job moving forward, not only as future lawyers, but as people, to make sure that this does not happen again. While seemingly a straightforward remark, I was left at a loss of words for sometime. Still, as I sit here now with goose bumps, I am choked up thinking about that moment. It was very moving, very powerful, and I will never forget it.


Concentration Camp at Dachau

One of the most informative and distressing stops on our trip to Germany was our tour of the concentration camp in Dachau. As someone who never studied World War II in great detail, I expected this camp to be one of the many extermination camps I had heard about. Dachau, however, was the first concentration camp and was primarily used to hold Hitler’s political opponents. Despite the fact that this camp did not have mortality rates as high as some of the other camps, it was still very saddening place. We toured the sleeping quarters, which were set up to show the cramped arrangement both early on, when the camp was less full, and near the end of the war when the camp was well over capacity. We also learned that there was a carefully thought out system of identifying prisoners so that they would be able to recognize each other and incite fights amongst prisoners from opposing groups. One of the most horrifying experiences for me was touring the gas chambers. Despite the fact that Dachau was not an extermination camp, there were still gas chambers used to execute prisoners. Throughout the entire tour, I felt a little strange and voyeuristic taking photos of the camp, and even looking at everything, but the height of that feeling hit me when walking through the gas chambers, so I have no photos for that portion of the tour.

Another surprising bit of information we received on the tour was that it is required that German students visit and tour many of the concentration camps as part of their curriculum. At first, I thought that this was a very good idea. I determined that it probably helps the students learn about the war and, hopefully, helps to prevent anything like the events of World War II from happening again. After considering it further, and upon observing the students touring the camp, I came to a slightly different conclusion. Though it is probably very beneficial for the student’s to do these tours, in many ways, I can’t help but wonder if it might also desensitize them to the events of the war. Like the arguments against allowing children to play violent video games and watch violent movies, I wonder if German students sometimes get used to these tours and no longer pay much attention to them. If they visit the camps frequently, the students may not really care or may begin to get bored with the tours. If that happens, then these requirements may do more harm than good. It might be more beneficial to have German students tour the camps less frequently, but make a “bigger deal” out of the tours to have more impact on the students. I just wonder if hearing about the horrible things that happened in the camps starts to be normal for the students, and if so, if they begin to ignore the camps and shrug off the information as boring and duplicative. Touring the camp had a big impact on me, and, even though I always took the events of World War II very seriously, I take them more seriously now.


Packing for the Trip

After the excitement set in that I was traveling to Europe with a group of students in my law school class came the panic of what am I going to pack?! Once I really started thinking about packing, my mind started racing! I realized I not only had to decide what to pack (and who knew what the weather was going to be like) but how much to pack and which suitcase to bring and if I wanted to pack a carryon and if I wanted to bring my computer and if I wanted to buy any books to read while traveling… okay, okay, I’ll spare you from all the brain rambles. Needless to say, if you are about to take this trip or are thinking about traveling out of the country soon, I hope I help ease your mind with some things that helped me. First of all, we were told ahead of time that we would be walking around a lot with our suitcases. Because of this, we were encouraged to try to pack all of our things in as small of a bag as possible. Okay, at this point, I felt like there was no hope. I was about to travel Europe (Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands to be exact) for ten days and I was told to try to fit all my clothing, shoes, accessories, and anything I wanted to bring into a small carryon bag?! I was convinced that this was in no way possible. However, after some convincing by my grandmother, I was going to try to make that happen. About four days before we were going to leave, I made sure all of my laundry was done and I started laying out outfits. I had to remind myself that it was okay to wear pants more than once and that I did not need a different pair of shoes for each outfit (this was extremely difficult to convince myself so I’m still not sure how I made that happen). The easiest way to make this happen was to pack outfits that would almost all go with my black boots. There were also two days on our trip where we were visiting courts and therefore had to dress up. The easiest things I could think to pack were dresses with tights and my black boots. To make things even easier on myself, I decided to wear the boots on the plane. This clears up some room in my carryon. Shirts can be rolled so I was actually able to bring a few extras for options, I only really needed about four different bottoms, I brought one extra pair of shoes (Chucks or a tennis shoe are a good option for this), and don’t forget socks and underwear! I was very excited when I packed all my outfits I laid out and they actually fit in the carryon bag! I had another shoulder bag that fit over the handle of my carryon that I put my makeup and liquids in and anything I would want to access during travel. I found that packing this way was stressful at first but once I got to Germany and realized how much walking and getting on and off of trains we did, I was so happy I packed this way. I encourage anyone going on this trip to try to pack a carryon instead of a big bag. Trust me, it is possible.



DachauOne of the most educational parts of traveling to Germany for the Legal Globalization class was visiting the concentration camp in Dachau. The tour began with the tour guide informing our group that the sign in front of the camp had been recently stolen, and the perpetrator(s) still remains a mystery. I was not sure what to expect upon touring the concentration camp, but it was a very moving experience and I learned a lot. It supplemented the knowledge I already acquired about the role of concentration camps during the war, but I also learned a lot about that specific concentration camp in Dachau. The Dachau concentration camp was organized into two sections, the main camp area and the crematorium. This particular concentration camp was opened in 1933 and it was not designed to imprison Jews, but rather for political prisoners. It eventually grew to also imprison other groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and emigrants. The tour guide was an integral part of the educational experience. It was interesting to learn about the terrible things that happened through the perspective of a German, as opposed to the American teachers that I have been familiar with. The tour was also a great way to put into perspective the rest of the information I learned about the Nuremberg Trials and everything leading up to the Nuremberg Trials. Although I have learned about the war throughout my educational career, seeing the concentration camp first-hand and then discussing the arrests and prosecutions that also surrounded the war caused me to think of things differently. I realized that this part of history did not happen very long ago and these terrible things still happen around the world today. The tour guide delivered an abundance of information in a powerful manner in just a short period of time. He discussed the growth of the concentration camp and the conditions the prisoners endured as the population at the camp multiplied. He talked about the different labeling of the prisoners in order to distinguish them according to their affiliation that led to them being imprisoned. It was also interesting to listen to the tour guide discuss the United States’ role in the liberation of the camp. The American troops killed camp guards after they surrendered, and charges were filed but later dismissed. Another shocking aspect of the concentration camp is that there are houses overlooking the camp. I can’t imagine people possessing the tolerance to live with a concentration camp operating essentially in their backyards. I also find it intriguing that people still live there today, since there is a constant reminder when they look outside of their windows that people were treated so horribly and the facilities are still in tact. The most disturbing part of the tour was walking through the building designed to kill prisoners with poison gas. Although the tour was a reminder of a horrific time, I am glad to have had the opportunity to tour the camp and get the perspective of a German tour guide. The tour guide’s knowledge and passion made for a fulfilling experience.