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Classrooms Without Borders

A Program for Young Jewish Professionals in Cooperation with Classrooms Without Borders.

Established in October 2007, Germany Close Up – American Jews Meet Modern Germany is an initiative created to enrich transatlantic dialogue and provide Jewish American young emerging leaders up to 39 with an opportunity to experience modern Germany up close and personally. A generous government scholarship (a part of the ERP Special Assets of the German Ministry for Economics and Technology) covers more than two thirds of participation costs, which leaves a participation fee of $990 per person. At the same time, Germany Close Up is an independent body regarding the organization and contents of its programs. The purpose of the program is to allow participants to gain their own perspective on Germany through individual experience.

The trips are designed as an exposure to a myriad of facets that form modern Germany, with both the past and present in focus. Every GCU trip entails a number of activities, tours and meetings. The different groups will meet German opinion makers from academic life and from across political spectrum as well as representatives of grassroots movements and German peers. All the trips cover issues of Germany's terrible past and its efforts to deal with the memory of the Holocaust and the Nazi terror up to this very day. They will also consider its transformation in the last 60 years into a modern, reunified, and democratic country in the heart of the European Union, home to the third-fastest growing Jewish community worldwide. Observing Shabbat and keeping a kosher diet are both possible on all GCU trips.

The 10-day program between August 1st and 10th will enable participants to experience Germany, Berlin's multicultural life, visit former East Germany, the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and experience other key historical sites and other cultural venues. They will meet with German opinion-makers, grass root movements, faculty and students of the Humboldt University Berlin, the Jewish community and Germans contemporaries. The role of Jewish voices in transatlantic relations will be explored as participants actively contribute to German-American dialogue.

The program will focus on the following topics:

  • Berlin and united Germany
  • The Holocaust and the Nazi Era including a visit to a former Concentration Camp
  • Transatlantic/German-American relations (incl. a meeting with officials of the German Federal Foreign Office)
  • Jewish Berlin, present and past (incl. the integration of new members of the Jewish community)
  • German-Israeli relations
  • A visit to Munich and Nuremberg


Day 1: Introduction

Individual Arrival in Berlin and Transfer to the Hotel

For participants who arrive early:

Boat Tour (optional)

Guided Tour of the Pergamon Museum (optional)

The Pergamon Museum is situated Berlin's 'Museum Island'. The site was designed by Alfred Messel and Ludwig Hoffmann and was constructed over the 20-year period from 1910 to 1930. The Pergamon houses original-sized, reconstructed monumental buildings such as the Pergamon Altar and the Market Gate of Miletus, all consisting of original parts transported from Turkey. There is controversy over the legitimacy of the acquisition of the collection with it being suggested that the collection should be returned to Turkey. The museum is subdivided into the antiquity collection, the Middle East museum, and the museum of Islamic art.

- Program officially starts –

 Q & A Session
With Kathleen Gransow and Germany Close Up Staff

Welcome Dinner

Day 2: Orientation in Berlin

Berlin City Bus Tour including a Visit to Bayerischer Platz

Bayerischer Platz at the center of the Bavarian Quarter has now also become synonymous with a memorial located on this site. In 1993, the artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schock erected the memorial in remembrance of the Jewish residents of the quarter murdered by the Nazis. The memorial is made up of 80 lamp posts with double sided placards showing a picture on one side and a text excerpt from Nazi legislation demonstrating the successive legal discrimination of Jews on the other.

 Tour of the German Historical Museum

With Mark-Alexander Brysch

The German Historical Museum was founded on October 28, 1987 on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the founding of the city of Berlin. The mission of the museum is to present German history in an international context. The permanent exhibition German History in Images and Artefacts is housed in the Zeughaus on a surface area of 8,000 square meters. The four floors of the I.M. Pei Exhibition Hall are devoted to the Museum's temporary exhibitions. The special exhibition Hitler and the Germans. Nation and Crime was on display from October 15, 2010 to February 27, 2011. With more than 265,000 visitors, it was the most successful temporary exhibition ever to be held by the museum.

"Empty Space? Don't Trust the Green Grass!" - A Walking Tour of Jewish Berlin-Mitte

With Dr. Dagmar Pruin, Executive Director, Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste, Program Director, Germany Close Up

Day 3: Remembrance & Beyond

Meet in the hotel lobby ready for departure

Guided Tour of the Holocaust Memorial including a Visit to the Information Center

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the center of Berlin is Germany's central Holocaust memorial site, a place for remembrance and commemoration of the six million victims. The Memorial consists of the Field of Stelae designed by architect Peter Eisenman and the underground Information Center. It is maintained by a Federal Foundation.

Departure from Berlin / Lunchboxes will be provided

Guided Tour of the Memorial and Museum at the Former Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen

This concentration camp was used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. Nazi-German concentration camps were different from extermination or death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau or Treblinka. Concentration camps were mostly intended as places of incarceration and forced labor for a variety of "enemies of the state" - the Nazi label for people they deemed undesirable. In the early years of the Shoah; Jews were primarily sent to concentration camps, but from 1942 onward they were mostly deported to extermination camps in Eastern Europe most located in occupied Poland. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the concentration camp was used as an NKVD special camp. The remaining buildings and grounds are now open to the public as a museum and memorial.

Group Discussion

With Kathleen Gransow

Day 4: Political Germany in a Nutshell

Introduction to Action Reconciliation Service for Peace

With Magdalena Scharf

Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) was founded in 1958 by German Protestant Christians as a sign of peace and atonement following the Shoah and the Second World War. Since then, the organization has been committed towards working towards these aims, in particular through work fighting racism, discrimination, and social exclusion. Today, these aims are continued and realized through the long-term international peace service program. Every year around 180 volunteers, mostly aged between nineteen and twenty five, take part in a yearlong placement in one of thirteen different countries where they work on a variety of educational, historical, political and social projects.

Meeting with Nikola Gillhoff, Deputy Special Representative for Relations with Jewish Organizations at the German Federal Foreign Office

Meeting with Karsten D. Voigt, Former Member of the Bundestag

 Dinner with Young Germans

Day 5: Jewish Timelines

Visit to Track 17

The Station Berlin Grunewald opened on August 1, 1879. Starting on October 18, 1941 and lasting until February 1945, the adjacent goods station was one of the major sites of deportation of the Berlin Jews. The trains left mainly for the ghettos of Litzmannstadt and Warsaw, from 1942 directly for the Auschwitz and Theresienstadt concentration camps. On October 18, 1991 a monument was inaugurated at the ramp leading to the former freight yard. The Deutsche Bahn had a memorial established on January 27, 1998 at the historic track 17 ("Gleis 17"), where most of the deportation trains departed.

 A Guided Tour of the Wannsee Villa (optional)

The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior officials of the Nazi German regime, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference was to inform administrative leaders of Departments responsible for various policies relating to Jews, that Reinhard Heydrich had been appointed as the chief executor of the "Final solution to the Jewish question". In the course of the meeting, Heydrich presented a plan, presumably approved by Adolf Hitler, for the deportation of the Jewish population of Europe and French North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) to German-occupied areas in eastern Europe, and the use of the Jews fit for labor on road-building projects, in the course of which they would eventually die according to the text of the Wannsee Protocol, the surviving remnant to be annihilated after completion of the projects. Instead, as Soviet and Allied forces gradually pushed back the German lines, most of the Jews of German-occupied Europe were sent to extermination or concentration camps, or killed where they lived. As a result of the efforts of historian Joseph Wulf, the Wannsee House, where the conference was held, is now a Holocaust Memorial.

Guided Tour of the Jewish Museum

With Marc Wrasse

The Jewish Museum Berlin covers two millennia of German Jewish history. World renowned architect Daniel Libeskind designed the museum, which opened to the public in 2001. The museum was one of the first buildings designed after German reunification.

 Services (optional)

The Fraenkelufer Synagogue in the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg was originally built between 1913 and 1916 as an orthodox synagogue. The main part of this synagogue was heavily damaged during Kristallnacht on November 9th, 1938, and further damaged in 1944. In 1958/59, those structures still remaining from the main synagogue were torn down. Today, only one of the neighboring buildings still exists. This building was once used for youth services and was later converted into the main synagogue. Currently, the synagogue hosts a conservative community.

Dinner with the Congregation

Shabbat: Shabbat friendly day: German Society Today

Shabbat services (optional)

Orthodox service

Conservative/Masorti service

Meeting with Eldad Beck, Germany and Europe Correspondent for the Israeli Daily Newspaper Yediot Aharonot

Panel Discussion: Jewish Life in Modern Germany

Panelists: Jonathan Marcus, Chairman of Limmud Germany
Michelle Piccirillo, Founder of Young and Jewish
Tal Alon, Spitz Magazine
Oleg Pronitschew, Director of the Jewish Student Union in Germany

Discussion: Initiatives for Democracy in Modern German Society

Day 7: Nuremberg

Travel and Arrival in Nuremberg

Guided Tour of the Memorial Nuremberg Trials

Day 8: Nuremberg and Munich

Walking Tour of Nuremberg

Nuremberg is a middle sized city located in the north of the German state of Bavaria. The first official record of the city dates back to 1050, with the city being noted as the site of an imperial castle. During the Middle Ages, Nuremberg Castle was a regular meeting point of the Holy Roman Empire causing the city to often be referred to as the 'unofficial capital' of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 15th and 16th centuries the city had a rich cultural scene that made it the center of the German Renaissance. Due to the city's relevance to the Holy Roman Empire, Nuremberg was given a significant role in National Socialist mythology. The city was chosen to be the site of NSDAP conventions – the Nuremburg rallies, and also gave its name to the Nuremberg Race Laws. Today, many examples of Nazi architecture can still be seen in the city. Between 1945 and 1946, German officials involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity were brought before an international tribunal in the Nuremberg trials.

Tour of the Documentation Center Reichsparteitagsgelände

The Documentation Center Reichsparteitagsgelände is housed in the north wing of the unfinished Congress Hall on the former Nazi Party Rally grounds, designed by the National Socialists to accommodate 50,000 people. The permanent exhibition 'Fascination and Terror' deals with the causes, contexts, and consequences of the National Socialist tyranny. The focus of the exhibition is the history of the Nazi Party Rallies, which were used by the National Socialists for propaganda purposes. The exhibition continues outside on the rally grounds, with large panels providing supplementary information on the history of the individual buildings. Regular special exhibitions are held in the Documentation Centre. The Educational Forum offers numerous study programs for school classes and youth groups as well as adult groups, providing in-depth insights into various topics of special interest.

Travel to Munich

Day 9: Munich

Walking Tour of Munich

Munich is the capital and largest city of the German state of Bavaria. It is located on the banks of the River Isar and to the north of the Bavarian Alps. It has a population of around 1.49 million and is the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. The city is home to many national and international authorities, major universities, major museums and theaters. Its numerous architectural attractions, international sports events, exhibitions, conferences and Oktoberfest attract considerable tourism. It is a centre of finance, publishing and advanced technologies. Munich is one of the most prosperous and fastest growing cities in Germany, and the seat of numerous corporations and insurance companies. It is a top-ranked destination for migration and expatriate location.

Historically, the name 'Munich' comes from the Old High German term Munichen, meaning "by the monks". This is a reference to the monks of the Benedictine order who ran a monastery on the site that was later to become the Old Town of Munich and is also the reason why the city's coat of arms depicts a monk. The first official mention of Munich can be traced back to 1158. From 1255 the city was the seat of the Bavarian Dukes, which shaped the city's history and culture well in to modern times and led to the city becoming a centre of arts, culture and science in the early 19th century. In the 20th century, however, Munich also became infamous for darker historical developments. It was the city in which the Nazi movement was founded and began its rise to power and was also the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics and the fatal terrorist attack on Israeli athletes.

Tour of the Ohel Jakob Synagogue

Visit to the Olympic Site and Guided Tour of the Main Architechtural Sights

The Olympiastadion München (English: Olympic Stadium Munich) is located in the heart of the Olympiapark München in northern Munich. The stadium was built as the main venue for the 1972 Summer Olympics. The concept of a "green Olympic Games" was chosen in order to show an orientation toward the ideals of democracy. The 1972 Summer Olympics were the second Summer Olympics to be held in Germany, after the 1936 Games in Berlin, which had taken place under the Nazi regime. Mindful of the connection, the West German Government was eager to take the opportunity of the Munich Olympics to present a new, democratic and optimistic Germany to the world, as shown by the Games' official motto "the cheerful Games". The Olympic Games were largely overshadowed by what has come to be known as the "Munich massacre". Just before dawn on September 5, a group of eight members of the Black September Palestinian terrorist organization broke into the Olympic Village and took nine Israeli athletes, coaches and officials hostage in their apartments. During a botched rescue attempt, all of the Israeli hostages were killed. On August 3, 2016, two days prior to the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee officially honored the eleven Israelis killed for the first time.
With an original capacity of 80,000, the stadium also hosted many major football matches including the 1974 World Cup Final and the Euro '88 Final. Until the construction of the Allianz Arena for the 2006 World Cup, the stadium was home to Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 Munich.

Concluding Discussion

Concluding Dinner

Day 10: Day of Individual Departure

Have a safe trip home!

What our participants have to say...

I thought the Germany Up Close trip was an extraordinary experience. It has helped me to understand why the Holocaust occurred and how much work we all still need to do to prevent genocide.

Joshua Frank
Germany Close Up

I approached this visit as one of artistic inquiry, specifically pertaining to Berlin's approach to memorializing a vast, overwhelming epoch. How does one turn something intangible into concrete and meaningful art without undermining the significance of the subject? I took away an unforgettable lesson in German humanity: culture, hospitality, struggle and triumph. I also know myself better as a Jew.

Sarah Rubin / Teacher / Shadyside Academy
Germany Close Up

I will take back to the U.S. what I learned about the importance of language as it relates to history & memory: killed vs. murdered, Kristallnacht vs. November Pogrom.

Rebecca Ackner / Operations Director at Rodef Shalom Congregation
Germany Close Up

I was really affected by the Garden of Exile and the "stepping on faces" Holocaust exhibits at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The aura of these places made me feel an immediate connection to the Jewish experience of the past.

Jennifer Klausner / Teacher / Scarsdale, NY
Germany Close Up

This trip is important to heal & forgive and correct pre-conceived misconceptions of the country.

Linor Vaknin / Marketing Manager, Chicago
Germany Close Up

I had an amaing time celebrating Shabbos with the young German-Jewish community – it was great to witness the universality and diversity of Judaism.

Jessica Spiegel / Physician Assistant, New York
Germany Close Up

The trip is an amazing way for anyone to learn about Jewish history + tradition in Germany and is also a great way to reflect on how to improve and repair the world.

Dena Robinson / Teacher / Baltimore
Germany Close Up

As a Jew, it was difficult to reconcile my desire to learn new things and my apprehension to visit Germany. I am going back to America with a new perspective on German life. I am pleasantly surprised to find so many warm, friendly people who are genuinely interested in the active preservation of the memory of the Holocaust and the lessons learned from it.

Nina Silverstein / Teacher / Baltimore
Germany Close Up

The impact of the Holocaust permeates the culture here in unexpected ways.

Seth Bisen-Hersch / Composer and Pianist, New York
Germany Close Up

I learned that Jews in America are lucky because they aren't a minority (at least in New York) and are largely accepted. This isn't the case even now in Europe. I would recommend this trip for someone to get back in touch with his/her Jewish roots – to learn more about the importance of Jewish culture and the development of German society post WWII.

Ariel Rudolph / User Experience Architect / Chicago
Germany Close Up

The first step to progress is forgeveness. Reconciliation starts with personal connection.

Amanda Dryer / Teacher / Melville, NY
Germany Close Up