Midterms are finally over! This week was insane, as I had midterms for all of my classes. I’m not used to having everything accumulate all at once, since at Penn State my workload ebbs and flows from week to week. This was probably the first time I’ve felt a considerable amount of stress since I’ve been here. I was pretty much either in my dining room studying or at school studying all week. Reviewing for every subject all within a few days is definitely not easy. It would be nice if they spread the tests out over a couple of weeks so that we’re not scrambling to memorize everything. It’s so weird that it’s already mid-semester though… I feel like I just started class.
Last weekend, before the midterm mayhem, I went on a school field trip to Lidice and Terezin. Lidice is a town in the Czech Republic that was completely destroyed and eliminated by Hitler during WWII. After the assassination of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich (protector of the Czech Republic), Hitler chose this town to avenge his death. He ordered the Nazis to kill every adult man, send the women and children to concentration camps, and burn the town down entirely. All 173 men over the age of 15 were murdered, and several hundred women and children were sent to concentration camps. The site is now a memorial. Seeing the completely barren landscape and imagining that it used to be a town full of houses, buildings, schools, and people was pretty scary. It’s so hard to believe that these kind of events actually occurred in our history, and not too long ago either.
Our next stop was Terezin, which is the “model” concentration camp. It was originally a military fortress built in the 18th century, and was later turned into a ghetto and concentration camp by the Nazis. It wasn’t an extermination camp, but thousands still died at the camp from things like starvation and disease. The Red Cross came here to inspect the conditions of concentration camps, so the Nazis had a huge “beautifying” project where they made sure everything looked hygienic and humane. It was interesting to compare and contrast Terezin to Auschwitz, as they are sort of on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Terezin acted as a labor camp, where people had more of a purpose than at Auschwitz. However, the barracks and living conditions were strikingly similar, with extreme overpopulation and lack of nutrition. As I was walking through the camp, I didn’t feel as emotional as I did when I walked through Auschwitz. Perhaps it was because I was distancing myself since I didn’t want to feel those intense emotions that I felt in Auschwitz again. I felt guilty for feeling numb– but I guess it was a defense mechanism.
Courtyard in Terezin
I’m really glad I got the chance to visit Lidice and Terezin. I’m so lucky to be able to experience and see first-hand such significant parts of history. It extends beyond World War II, too. I see buildings and houses from the communist regime, architecture from the 10th century, and remnants of the communist mentality in Czech culture on a daily basis. I am surrounded by it, and it is truly fascinating.
Anyway, weather here has been absolutely wonderful and it finally feels like spring time. I love being able to pull out my lighter jacket and wear it comfortably outside. This weekend I’m going to Paris to meet up with Carolyn, who is studying abroad in London. I’m so excited to see her! It’ll be really nice to see a familiar face, one that I’ve known for more than just a couple months. It’ll be my first trip that I’m traveling via plane, too! I plan on consuming many delicious pastries this weekend.