VAMPY campers explore rise and fall of Nazi Germany

The terror and consequences of the Nazi regime, from its destructive, inhumane “final solution” to its aggressive war upon the world, are well known. However, to our modern ears, these are events in the past that we might have connection to through grandparents who lived or served during the events of 1933 to 1945, or in some rarer cases family members who are survivors of the atrocities or the war. At VAMPY, throughout class time in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, students take a deeper dive into the historical events that permitted Hitler’s rise to power, the deadly policies of Hitler’s Germany, the philosophical development of modernity that set the conditions for the Nazi regime, and the practical as well as philosophical consequences of the aftermath of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.

To do this not just through lectures, reading, and classwork, the Nazi Germany and Holocaust class offers students two projects: the VAMPY Holocaust and the mock trial of Adolf Hitler, presuming he was captured by the allied powers at the end of the war. This year, the mural design revolved around two separate visions for the world. On the left side of the mural, a yellow eye with a Star of David as its pupil hovers above a peaceful city, clean and well kept. In contrast, on the right side of the mural, a red eye with a swastika as its pupil hovers above a war torn, decimated city. The students captured the message this class offers to those who take it: One path offers a bright future, while the other path is laden with many horrors. Peace and love on one hand, hatred and destruction on the other. 

But what if the personification of the path of hatred and destruction was put on trial? What if Hitler was placed on the stand? That is the framework of the mock trial. The students divide into prosecution and defense teams, with the defense selecting someone to take the stand as Hitler. The teams research the legal, moral, and historical issues and problems of the case to prepare their arguments. I’m sure you’re thinking: This must be a slam dunk for the prosecution. After all, how could Hitler possibly escape this year’s charges of Crimes Against Peace (waging aggressive war), war crimes (Inhumane military actions), and Crimes Against Humanity (Crimes relating to the systematic destruction of individuals and peoples)?

Be cautious dear readers, for while Hitler was sentenced to 40 years with some labor this year (guilt of War Crimes and Crimes Against Peace, but not Crimes Against Humanity), in years past he received a slap on the wrists or outright escaped punishment. Each year, the trial project shows that the problem of evil that Hitler represents is more difficult to contain and punish than we assume. This class seeks to ensure that campers walk away with the tools to confront evil and help prevent the evils and horrors of 1933-1945 from ever happening again. We hope the students of 2023 will function as vanguards of not just the present but also the future.

— Anastasey (Ani) M., teaching assistant