Art, Assisi, and Adventure: A Year in Italy

By Allie Donnenwirth, Honors College Junior

IMG_0154My name is Allie Donnenwirth, and I am a junior in the Honors College. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Italy for my entire sophomore year! I am an art major and business minor, so immersing myself in such an art-based culture was like a dream. I was able to study Art History in Florence and see famous artwork including The David by Michelangelo, Birth of Venus by Botticelli, the architecture of The Duomo, and so much more. I was able to further explore my love for metals, jewelry making, and enameling. Classes such as the history of Europe up until the Renaissance, Italian Language, Italian Literature, book making, among others were offered for me to take and get credit for.


When we arrived in Italy, we spent three days in Rome and Vatican City. After Rome, we town hopped in Tuscany until arriving in our quaint, medieval, Tuscan town named Certaldo! We lived in apartments above our classrooms on the top of the rolling hills.

Throughout both semesters, we continued to travel to Sienna, Assisi, Volterra, Montepulciano, the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre and many more cities. I traveled to Barcelona with a group of girls for Fall Break and Halloween, and then London for Thanksgiving. Both semesters, we ended our trip with the beautiful city of Venice. However, the most amazing part of my trip was the people I met and the sense of community everyone shared.


Because we lived in such a small town, we really got the chance to know the locals very personally, make invaluable friendships, and share unforgettable memories.

The people I met on this trip are my best friends. It is difficult to even put into words how this experience changed my life and helped me become who I am today and decide what I want to do with the rest of my life. Deciding to study abroad was the best decision I ever made.


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An Exploration of Holocaust Archives: Perkins Library at Duke University

By Kristalyn Gill

Some people say you can only trust history when you hold, in your hands, a primary source or witness the event itself. However, I do not concur with this statement. For example, I have read numerous articles about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. I was not alive during the 1800s and have never been presented with artifacts from the murder, yet I hold Lincoln’s assassination to be a true, historical event. I have taken a similar stance with the Holocaust. Until our trip to Perkins Library at Duke University this week, I have never held any historical items from World War II or been able to physically sift through documents spanning across the last eighty years. I was able to study graphic images of the Nazi death camps’ victims and to view shocking panoramas of both the fully costumed Knights of the Ku Klux Klan on a local beach as well as the thousands of Nazi supporters at the 1926 Nuremburg rally. While pouring over these sources, I came across a letter written in London in 1939. I became completely absorbed by the content of the letter. The writer was a witness of the destruction of Jewish stores during Kristallnacht and gave an opinionated description of the Jewish population. He did not associate himself with the Nazis, but he saw the extermination of the Jews as a necessary action to regain Germany’s power and control the country. It was fascinating to read his words since I have heard Dr. Bassman describe the various public opinions of German citizens. It was at this moment that I began to more accurately assess the stance of the German public who supported Hitler.

Our trip to Duke University broadened my perspective on how the Holocaust was influenced by World War I, became international news, and continues to cause controversy in the present day and age. I highly enjoyed spending time with my peers researching a topic we are all passionate about. We rediscovered Holocaust history to be true by not only past knowledge put into our heads by Dr. Bassman but also by what we held in our hands and read with our eyes in Perkins Library. I support this trip and believe the entire Honors College would benefit from visiting these artifacts and have their minds stretched by studying the sheer horror of Holocaust and the colossal damage it has caused on our past, is inflicting on the present, and will transform the future.

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Phenomenal Photographs and Artifacts

By Mary-Grace Kelly

While on our class’s excursion to Duke University, I was privileged to see many photos and read many impressive documents, newspaper articles, letters, and books that were both eye opening and shocking. This trip was extremely educational because it provided me with an opportunity to see with my own eyes the activities of hate groups in the past and the present.

On the first table were several items relating to the Nazi organization.  The most shocking item on this table for me were the photographs of rallies organized by the Nazi regime and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Although I have seen pictures of similar rallies before I had never seen the images on full panoramic printouts. These images opened my eyes to how large and monstrous these organizations were. I was also struck by the extreme similarities between the two groups, such as the presence of bands and uniforms. I am baffled that every person in the mass in each photograph truly believed and justified the horrendous acts performed by these destructive groups. Along with the photographs, I was struck by one single sentence in one of the books on the table that stated politics and morals should be separated. I am confused at how any rational human being could say with assurance that these two things do not belong together. Without morals, the politics of any society would be doomed.

On the second table two objects really stood out to me; a newspaper article denying the holocaust and a letter addressed to African Americans from a white author. While reading the headlines of the newspaper, I was left in complete disbelief. Many of the claims were absolutely ridiculous but were presented in a manner that made it seem as if they were fact. For example, they claimed that a women who had been listed as murdered in the concentration camp’s crematorium was actually alive and working. They supported this claim with a photograph of the women who was supposedly once the concentration camp prisoner. Unlike the newspaper, the letter created extreme feeling of disgust after reading it. The claims made by the writer were absurd and infuriating. He identified the Jews as the common enemy and that the segregation of blacks and white would be the only solution. How ignorant can someone be to propose such a ridiculous idea?

On the third table the most recent items were displayed. One of the items was a flyer for an event led by Hutton Gibson. I was shocked that rallies are still occurring in today’s society. Secondly, I was amazed at the flyers attempt to appear legitimate by using a law school endorsement.  Other items on this table that I found alarming were pages for subscriptions to the hate group magazine and flyers to join the groups. I am absolutely flabbergasted that people in today’s world still insist on creating and participating in prejudice organizations.

Overall, the entire experience can be explained with one word “shock.” The many items in the collection continuously provoked emotions of anger, disgust, disbelief, and sadness. Before this I was naïve in that I believed our society would learn from the photographs on the first table and take action to prevent it from every happening again. However, by the third table it became apparent that many individuals and group have not learned from history. I am saddened that hate groups still exist but I am thankful for groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center that take action against such groups.

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Holocaust Denialism and Media: Holocaust Seminar

By Aenia Amin

Today’s trip to Duke University and the Nasher Museum was an enriching and eye-opening experience. Upon arriving at Duke, William Hansen, the curator of the Rubenstein Library, and Kate Collins, a research librarian, welcomed us and guided us through the beautiful Gothic architecture that composed campus, towards the prepared exhibit on Nazi propaganda and anti-Semitism. Based on 90 boxes of material donated by the Southern Poverty Law Center and by private donors, these two individuals prepared a sample of the materials focusing on Nazi propaganda, anti-Semitism and racism, ranging from the 1930s to 2004. There were a variety of sources, from originally bound books to newspaper articles and flyers. All of the pieces were fascinating and made me realize that we have penetrated only the surface of the Holocaust, an event in the ocean of racism. This interdisciplinary event is correlated with hatred and prejudice worldwide and cross-culturally.
One facet of anti -Semitism is that the average citizen is frequently exposed to it by the public media, magazines, flyers, and popular culture. This astounded me as we hear about this hatred multiple times daily; yet, we often ignore it. However, it unconsciously shapes our views. For example, one of the flyers was advertising a conference devoted to proclaiming the superiority of the white or Caucasian race and denoting other minorities, featuring Hunter Gibson (the father of Mel Gibson) as a keynote speaker on his New World Order conspiracy. Hosted by the Freedom Law School in California, this event took place in 2004! David Duke’s theories about the Jews being responsible for the 9/11 attacks also illustrate the modern day anti-Semitism that is one of the many banes of society. Even music was utilized as a form of propaganda against minorities by the White Aryan Resistance Party. The National Socialist White People’s Party, now eradicated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, frequently implemented rallies and conferences to target the general public.
Secondly, while Holocaust denialism has died down since the 1980s, it is still prevalent, evidenced by the Texan-based newspaper and other articles and Zionist propaganda in the exhibit. These sources were formatted as authentic academic journals, newspaper articles, or advertisements in an effort to lend credibility. Overall, the strategies employed by these racist organizations effectively targeted the average citizen; however, an educated citizen could easily discern through the falsehoods and promote the betterment of society. All one needed was education and a sense of justice and conscience. These are the lessons that I gleaned from this enriching experience, and I intend to share this knowledge to promote awareness about combating the anti-Semitism and racism that plagues our society.

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The Rubenstein Rare Book Collection: Holocaust Seminar

By Rebecca Wagner

Stepping foot on the campus of Duke University for the first time allowed me to understand why it is known as a prestigious university. The atmosphere and architecture of the gothic style buildings were breathtaking. I could never imagine a more beautiful campus. The pictures I have seen of the school do not do the university justice. Although the point of the trip was not to take a tour of Duke University I enjoyed getting a chance to walk around campus and become engulfed in its beauty.

Furthermore, the trip itself was very informative. I enjoyed getting a chance to see the exhibit of the Rubenstein Rare Book Collection that the curator was able to put together for us. The range of information and dates that the articles covered proves that discrimination of races ranged in multiple ways. The content and pictures that the documents included astonished me. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that the Klu Klux Klan was able to take a group picture in the middle of the day in 1927 with no problems. I can’t begin to think what would happen if this was to take place today. Also, the one book that really made me step back and appreciate the rare book collection was the book full of survivor’s stories that was bound by a prisoner of war’s clothing. Being able to put my hands and eyes on this book was touching. The book made everything that I had ever heard about the Holocaust become even more of a reality. It seemed that I was holding the blood, sweat, and tears of the prisoners in between my palms. The last articles that stood out the most to me throughout the exhibit were the newspapers written by W.A.R., I had a hard time believing that these newspapers were really published and distributed amongst Americans. The information that was written in the publications was awful. For example, inside they were selling “racial stickers” and CD’s with “racial songs” on them. Another thing that stood out in the papers was the statement that they approve of colored people having abortions and they push for them to have them, however it is unforgivable if someone that is “one of them” has an abortion. I could not believe the graphic language and connotations that were made within this text. However, I was glad that the newspaper was within the collection because to me that meant that the Southern Poverty Law had stopped W.A.R.’s awful work.

I applaud The Southern Poverty Law for their efforts and work that they have done thus far. The hatred in this world is disgusting and should be put to an immediate stop. I often forget that these hate groups still exist today however the exhibit showed that this is still as much a factor today that it was years ago. Duke University is fortunate to be able to house this information from The Southern Poverty Law in their collection. I am glad I was able to go on this enriching trip with our seminar group to help further my knowledge on the Holocaust and other hate groups.

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