A University of Winnipeg professor is making plans for another educational Holocaust tour.
History professor Jody Perrun, an East Kildonan resident, organized the first tour with 23 people through Poland, Czech Republic, and Germany in May 2013, and is making plans for a return trip in August 2015. The itinerary has changed slightly, with the tour dropping the Czech Republic portion to visit Hungary and Austria instead. The tour, 13 days in 2013, is now 15 days. It will be run though EF Tours.
Perrun said in addition to mainstays like investigating the Warsaw ghetto, touring Auschwitz, and seeing the memorial in Jozefow, the tour will now be able to look into the story of Hungarian Jews in Budapest, and analyze the effects of the Holocaust in Vienna.
Another site those on the tour will be able to visit is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, which opened in 2013. Perrun, who did a battlefield tour that helped set his career path when he was a student, feels plenty can be learned in Poland, as he expanded the group’s time there.
"I didn’t want to take time out of Poland. I added a day in Warsaw so that we could do the new museum," said Perrun, who also teaches classes at the University of Manitoba.
Student Stephanee Ophey, who took the 2013 tour, said she learned a lot from the experience.
"There’s only so much you can learn from a class," she said. "It became that much more real when you’re actually there.
"We learned a lot of things we didn’t really anticipate learning. We got a pretty good introduction to how countries are still dealing with the Holocaust."
Ophey recalled talking with a shopkeeper in Munich who clammed up when she discovered the reason for the Canadians’ travels, and also how the group was looking for a memorial near Jozefow, where 1,500 people were murdered and 300 were taken as labourers.
"No one in the town could, or would, direct us to where it (the memorial) was, and it was just outside the town," Ophey said.
"You would imagine if something like that happened here, everybody would know, at least, where’s the memorial. Nobody would tell us. We spent about two hours looking," Perrun said.
Perrun said though the first tour was a success overall, there were some hiccups he hopes to avoid — ensuring the bus driver and tour director can speak the same language, and also ensuring the itinerary is perfect, as they nearly travelled to the wrong Jozefow and corrected it days before the trip began.
Ophey added though the educational content of the trip is grim, there is also free time for the travellers to enjoy one another’s company.
"We did see a lot of sombre things, but it wasn’t a sombre trip," Ophey said.
Though the tour is directed at students, it is open to members of the general public. Those reserving spots with a deposit before March 31 have a locked-in price of $4,949. Those reserving afterward will be subject to price increases. Discounted rates are available for students under 20.
Information sessions will be held at the University of Winnipeg on Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. and Feb. 27 at 12:30 p.m. Both sessions will be held in room 3M65.
For more information, visit Perrun’s blog at http://www.jperrun.blogspot.ca/.