POLAND - Witnessing Auschwitz

CENS 303D | 3 Credits

Apply by January 24, 2020

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

Please note that you can apply for up to a maximum of 2 Global Seminars.

Students are encouraged to meet with the Program Director at an orientation session or one-on-one to learn more about the program.


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: it was an industrial compound, a concentration camp, a medical research site, and an extermination facility; it 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 strange 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 analysing 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 section follows the general schedule of CENS 303, the course is taught on site, and video material will be in a large part replaced by study tours. Because of research opportunities on site, there will be a larger focus on research components of the course. Regular quizzes and midterm essay will be replaced by journals, and by a research or educational project.

You will be introduced to the topic prior to the trip to Poland during in class and online lessons (at least 2 weeks before the departure). You will be expected to read memoirs and literary texts before they arrive in Poland.

About the experience

A typical day might include:

  • two 90 minute lectures, or a lecture and a study visit
  • time for individual study, research or individual meetings with researchers and experts, and/or a group seminar (60 - 90 minutes)

A sample day in Warsaw:

  • All lectures are in the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute.
  • The Life and Extermination of the Warsaw Ghetto – lecture and discussion
  • Holocaust exhibitions in Polin Museum – on-site lecture (curatorial tour)
  • Time for individual study


  • Jews in Poland after the Shoah – lecture, and discussion
  • Jewish Cemetery on Okopowa Street – on-site lecture (study tour)
  • Reflection and/or study time, individual meetings with researchers

Sample day in Auschwitz-Birkenau:

  • All lectures are in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum
  • The Genocide of Sinti and Roma – lecture and workshop on the exhibition in block no.13
  • Medicine and medical experiments in KL Auschwitz – on site lecture (tour of Blok 10)
  • Individual study time, Research discussion groups meetings and activities


  • The archives and their contents - workshop in block 24 (Museum Archives)
  • Preserving for the future, on site lecture (study tour of the conservation department
  • Individual or group reflection time, Individual meetings with researchers, archivists and librarians

Notable environmental conditions:  

Weather in Poland is very similar to Vancouver’s weather. Outside of Warsaw, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, there is a lot of muddy, grassy or forested areas. In Warsaw and Krakow, remember about respectful clothing in Synagogues, cemeteries and churches.

Lots of traveling by train and bus (pack lightly!) between Warsaw-Krakow-Oswiecim (Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum). 40 minutes walk from the city of Oswiecim to the Auschwitz Museum and back in the second week of the Auschwitz part of the seminar. (Full shoes, hats, bug repellent, and sunscreen are essential)

Sensitive or potentially triggering content:

Very sensitive topics of Holocaust studies are discussed in locations of the former Warsaw Ghetto and in the place (and facilities) of the former concentration camp.

While the cities (Warsaw, Krakow, and Oswiecim) offer ample venues and possibilities for social life and various lighter activities helping to prevent depressing moods, during the second week of the trip students are in a hotel outside the city, close to the entrance of the Museum. No public/social life around, not a lot of activities outside of the seminar available. This may be difficult for more sensitive or less motivated students.


In Warsaw, students will stay in the guest rooms at Dluga 29, in the former Hotel Polski. There are 3-4 people rooms with shared bathrooms at the corridor. The guest rooms are chosen because of their central location and historical value. Students will learn about the history of the Hotel Polski and its importance for Jews who survived after the Ghetto Uprising.

In Oswiecim (next to the entrance to the Museum) students will be in a 3-star hotel, Hotel Olecki. 2-3 people rooms with bathrooms. 5 minutes from the entrance to the Museum.

In the city of Oswiecim students will stay in a bed and breakfast villa (2-3 people rooms with bathrooms). It is located in the center of the city, 40 minutes walk to and from the Museum. Very close to stores, restaurants, and cafés.

In Krakow, students will stay in a dorm in the Academic City, 20 minutes from the historical city center.

General timeline

The program will take place in (Warsaw and Oswiecim, Poland) May 07 - May 28, 2020.  Prior to your time in the field, you will be required to attend pre-departure sessions in Vancouver.

Program dates May 07 - 28, 2020


To be accepted for this Global Seminar, you have to meet both program-specific requirements as well as Go Global’s general eligibility.

Program-specific requirements: 

The course has no specific prerequisites. Open to students from all faculties.

Global Seminars - general eligibility

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 fees and costs

Approximately $2300-2600 + tuition, flight and meals*

The final fee depends on the number of students in the program. Students do not pay the Go Global fee when applying to a Global Seminar. The Go Global fee is built into the Program Fee and is payable upon acceptance to the program.

All qualifying students will receive a $1000 Go Global Award.

* Please note that meals are not included in the program cost.

Program fee includes Program fee DOES NOT include
Accommodation Tuition*
Program-related travel Flight*
Program-related excursions Incidentals*
Meals *depending on program
Go Global fee ($415.00)

*UBC Tuition - Not included. Part of your costs

This amount will differ for domestic and international students. This amount will be assigned to you on the Student Service Centre (SSC) according to normal UBC tuition timelines. Read about tuition fees.

This amount is not determined or applied by Go Global.

All students participating in a Global Seminar will have tuition applied to their SSC account.

*Flights - Not Included. Part of your costs

Travel to your destination is a separate cost. You are responsible for arranging your own travel. You should not book your flight until you are notified to book. All Global Seminars only run if there is a minimum number of students enrolled.

*Incidentals - Not Included. Part of your costs

Some examples include personal mobile communication, personal transportation that is not related to the learning outcomes of the program, additional meals that are not already identified as part of the program fee, immunizations, Visas, etc.

Please contact a Global Seminar Advisor if you have questions about the program fee. Connecting early with an Enrolment Service Advisor will also be helpful in order to plan for your trip.

Global seminars refund policy

Adjustment on deposits

Students are eligible for an adjustment of their deposit under the following circumstances:

Withdrawal after you accept your spot in the program

  • You are eligible to have your Global Seminar deposit adjusted from $750 to $93.25 (ie: you receive a $656.75 credit)

Withdrawal after deposit posted on SSC

  • You are eligible to have your Global Seminar deposit adjusted from $750 to $321.75 (ie: you receive a $428.25 credit)

Withdrawal after deposit due date

  • The deposit and all remaining program fees are completely non-refundable. Exceptions may be determined at the discretion of Go Global. 

Any funds allocated to students through the ARA program must be returned in their entirety.

Students who decide to withdraw their application must submit a request in writing by email to the Global Seminar Advisor 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:

The Centre for Accessibility (Vancouver) 604 822-5844

Disability Resource Centre (Okanagan) 250 807-8053

Pre-departure policy

Safety Abroad

UBC is committed to preparing students for safe and successful international experiences. In order to achieve this, any student participating in a Go Global Program must complete the following:

  • All UBC Student Safety Abroad requirements
  • Go Global Program-specific pre-departure requirements (includes both online and in-person components)

Failure to successfully complete these and any other requirements may result in withdrawal from the Go Global Program.


Go Global Vancouver

When emailing us, please include:

  1. Your UBC student number in the subject line
  2. Your full name
  3. Which category of student are you:
    1. if you are a current UBC degree student interested in Go Global programs, include some relevant information like the type of program or region of the world you are interested in
    2. If you are an "outgoing UBC student" participating in a Go Global program, please mention the name of the program or host university you are matched to
    3. If you are an "incoming student" (from another university), please mention the name of your home university and which category of student you are (exchange, VIRS, Tec de Monterrey)

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