It’s one thing to read about history, but it’s something different to be totally submersed in it.
A group of 23 Jefferson High School students recently returned from Europe, where they took in the sights of World War II.
The group visited the beaches where allied forces landed in Normandy, a German concentration camp and the Palace of Justice where the Nuremburg trials for Nazi war criminals were held.
"I didn’t expect the concentration camps to affect me like they did," said Emily Jacobs, a Jefferson High School senior. "But seeing them in person — it was a really powerful experience."
The annual trip for seniors was the brainchild of Robert Pittard, a social studies teacher.
"I have always loved learning about World War II," said Pittard, who teaches a World War II course at the high school.
"In general, travel is good for kids but trips like this one are important because it gives students a greater appreciation for history."
The second world war began in 1939 when Adolf Hitler’s troops invaded Poland, causing Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany. In 1941, Japan attacked Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor, prompting the U.S. officially to enter the war. The war ended in 1945 after Germany and Japan surrendered.
This is the third year that Jefferson High students have taken the trip to Europe, and each year the number of participants has grown.
During their journey abroad, the students also got to take in other sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre.
"I decided to take the trip because I thought it would be a good opportunity," said Josh James, a senior. "But this was really a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip — it was definitely worth the money."
While in Europe, the students had the opportunity to sample traditional foods such as authentic German bratwursts.
Although the students say that the memories from the trip will last forever, some purchased more tangible keepsakes.
"I bought a World War II medal — an Iron Cross Second Class, which is like our Bronze Star," said Dillan Greeson, a Jefferson High senior. "I knew a lot about WWII before I took the trip, but it was great being able to see the different sites in person."