Witnessing Auschwitz

CENS 303D | 3 Credits

About the virtual program

This program is virtual and will take place online for Summer 2021. The application deadline has been extended, you can can continue to submit applications online.  Students will be selected on a rolling basis until courses are full.

About the course

This course is led by UBC faculty member Bozena Karwowska

This course will examine representations of the Nazi Holocaust and related aspects of Nazi Germany by focusing on Auschwitz. Auschwitz was a place in which several frequently conflicting agendas of the Third Reich intersected.An industrial compound, a concentration camp, a medical research site, and an extermination facility, Auschwitz served to imprison, terrorize, enslave, and kill. Its operation as well as the so-called “twisted road” that led to it provide a horrific and revealing example of the strange ways in which the Third Reich ruled by a mixture of chaos and consent. More importantly, Auschwitz is a site of conflicting memories that raise the question how, and if at all, it can be remembered and commemorated in ways that resist both sentimentalization and the recourse to conventional literary or cinematographic imagery.

After introducing you to the history of Jewish settlement in Poland (including development of Yiddish literature) and the so-called phase one of the extermination (Warsaw Ghetto), the course will explore issues related to Auschwitz by analyzing a set of diverse texts including research-based academic studies, first-hand accounts by both victims and perpetrators, interviews, documentaries, feature films, and literary fictionalization.

While the summer seminar follows the general schedule of CENS 303, the course is taught in cooperation with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial, and video material will be in a large part replaced by lectures, discussions, and virtual study tours. Because a close cooperation with the Museum Research Center creates unparalleled research opportunities, there will be a larger focus on research components of the course. Regular quizzes and midterm essays will be replaced by journals or by a research or educational project.

You will be introduced to the topic prior to the beginning of the seminar in a virtual class meeting and online lessons (at least 2 weeks before the course), so you can start reading memoirs and literary text in advance.

About the virtual experience

A typical day might include:

  • Two 90 minute lectures, or a lecture and a study visit/individual meetings with researchers (9:00am – noon)
  • A group seminar (60 - 90 minutes, 1:00pm – 2:30pm)

Sample of topics in a day

  • The Genocide of Sinti and Roma – lecture and avirtual tour of the exhibition in Blok 13

  • Medicine and medical experiments in KL Auschwitz –virtual on-site lecture (with a tour of Blok 10)

  • Group seminar or research discussion groups meetings and activities

  • The archives and their contents - workshop in block 24 (Museum Archives)

  • SS Garrison in Auschwitz - lecture and discussion

  • Group seminar or individual meetings with researchers, archivists, and librarians

Sensitive or potentially triggering content: Some students find that it is an emotional experience, especially if you have heritage/roots in the areas we are exploring.

Eligibility requirements

General Global Seminar requirements

  • You must have at least a 70% average in your most recent Winter Session of full-time studies prior to application
  • You need to be a UBC student in good standing (e.g., not be under academic or non-academic discipline) to participate in a Global Seminar
  • You should have full-time student status (as defined by your faculty) in the year prior to your Global Seminar
  • You must maintain 70% average prior to your Global Seminar departure
  • You must have completed or intend to complete the necessary (or equivalent) pre-requisite courses prior to Global Seminar start date
  • Unclassified students will be considered on a case-by-case basis
  • You will need to be accepted by the Program Director leading the Global Seminar

Program-specific requirements

The course has no specific prerequisites, and is open to students from all faculties. However, priority will be given to students in the Faculty of Arts

General timelines

Students will attend lectures and seminars for 20 days (May 5 – 23, 2021) and then will work on their individual projects (to be submitted by June 10, 2021).

Application deadline

The application deadline has been extended, so you can can continue to submit applications online. Students will be selected on a rolling basis until courses are full.

How to apply

  1. Log in to the Gateway online application program
  2. Select “Search Experiences” and type "VGS" to explore Global Seminars programs
  3. Upload the application form for your selected Global Seminar – see Application documents below

Students are limited to apply for one Virtual Global Seminar.  Interest in a second Virtual Global Seminar will be assessed on a case by case basis and students should contact Go Global directly for more information.


This program is jointly funded by Arts Research Abroad (ARA)  and Go Global. ARA is a funding body made of the Faculty of Arts – Dean’s Office and anonymous donors  that supports Virtual Global Seminars.

This funding will offset 100% of the program fees for this Virtual Global Seminar.

Program fees and costs

Go Global is committed to making high-quality global education experiences accessible to all students.  For this reason, Virtual Global Seminars will be kept at no or low cost for the Summer 2021 season.  

The Go Global Fee ($415) will be covered in full by the Go Global Award ($500) and Program Fees will be covered in full by the Global Service Learning Award. 

You will pay UBC tuition for the number of credits you enroll in for this program.

Global Seminars refund policy

The Go Global Fee ($415.00 CDN) is an administrative fee required for all applicants to Go Global programs. The fee is non-refundable. However, it may be adjusted under the following circumstances.

If you withdraw from Go Global

To withdraw from your program, you must contact Go Global by email to request withdrawal.

Students who withdraw from the program after the program starts, will have their Go Global fee adjusted from $415.00 to $321.75 (reduced by $93.25).

In the case of withdrawal, Go Global Award funding must be returned in full.

If you have questions, please connect with your Go Global advisor or email Go Global at go.global@ubc.ca.


If you are considering applying for a Go Global program and identify with having a disability or pre-existing health condition (mental or physical) which could impact your participation, or if you require academic accommodations, you can contact the following offices and meet with an Accessibility Advisor before the start of the program:


Go Global's Vancouver campus office is closed until further notice. At this time, you can contact Go Global by email, phone or virtually through Zoom.

If you need to book an advising appointment, please complete the online request form. Appointments will be held through Zoom or by phone.

Advising hours

Monday: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Tuesday: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Thursday: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm