Course Details

Program dates


Travel dates


Course credits

Total credits: 15



black and white photo of Yanara Friedland

Yanara Friedland

Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature
FA 329
ROBERT SNIDERMANWeisensee Friedhof 8_2018

Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman

Instructor of Contemporary Art and Jewish Cultural Studies
FA 348

In this course, we will travel to the major European metropolis of Berlin, a city marked by historical trauma and complex cultural layers. Through reading, writing, site exploration, art, collaboration, and critical discussion, we will interrogate how violent histories have been remembered and overwritten in the city, and how they continue to shape the present. As an interdisciplinary course, we will investigate acts and spaces of memorialization through both critical and artistic inquiry. In addition to our time in Berlin, we will venture to nearby locations like the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial and Museum and the MyLife Archive of Human Destinies at the German-Polish border in Frankfurt-Oder/Słubice, immersing ourselves in a regional network of commemorative sites, ruins, and community projects. Our journey together will investigate and respond to the force and remnants of German colonization and genocide in Namibia, Nazism and the Holocaust, the Allies' bombing destruction of Berlin, the GDR, and contemporary migrant diasporas. Most importantly, we will walk extensively, engaging Berlin in everyday place-responsive practices of witness, critique, and relationality through urban space, literature, art, and theory. 

Program Highlights

  • Path of the former Berlin Wall
  • Jewish Cemetery of Weißensee
  • Colonial Neighbors: A Participatory Archive and Research Project on Germany's Colonial History
  • Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial and Museum
  • 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
  • MyLife Archive of Human Destinies at the German-Polish border in Frankfurt-Oder/Słubice
  • Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation

Expectations of Participants

A faculty-led study abroad experience, this course will span intensive on-campus introductory sessions and five weeks of engagement in Berlin, Germany. No previous study with memory or culture in Germany is required.  

In Berlin, we will meet three full days a week, balancing classroom time with site visits, and leaving the rest of the week for solo and group project work, free space for rest, integrating heavy materials and exploring Berlin. At most, two days a week will involve exploring places by foot and visiting institutions and cultural sites, broken up by breaks and a meal. Within such contexts, participants must be able to walk for three-five hours in a day with or without reasonable accommodations. Our last meeting each week will include extensive space for reflection and discussion. In addition to traditional course work and site visits, students will have the opportunity to meet and, in some cases, work with Berlin-based artists, scholars, community groups, organizations, and activists.

The program will end the last week of Spring quarter in Berlin, not returning to Western, so students will have the option to continue traveling in Europe afterwards.

Refrigeration is available for program duration.

Participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to departure, no exemptions.