Skip to Main Content


You are in the main content
Cover Photo Image

Ethnic Identity, Conflict, and the Holocaust


Munich, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, Germany, Poland

Program Description

The course is open to ALL majors. PSYC majors can enroll as PSYC 200 or PSYC 400 in this course. Non-PSYC majors may register for PSYC 200 credit. All students take a 1-credit prep course in Spring 2016.

How did the Holocaust happen? What other inter-ethnic conflicts persist in Germany and Poland? How have historical forces changed the psychology of ethnicity today? This course uses psychological theory to examine the culture of ethnicity, ethnic identity, and ethnic conflict in Germany and Poland. A multidisciplinary and multimodal approach will be used via on-site experiences and cultural visits, lectures, readings, and written assignments. Visits to historical sites will be included as part of the course, and will include the Berlin Wall, Dachau concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Jewish ghettoes in Warsaw, Lódz, and Kazimierz, and Oskar Schindler’s enamel ware factory-museum in Kraków.

Course objectives:

  • Determine the extent to which aspects of culture and cultural identities affect individual and group-level thought, emotion, and behavior, particularly from German and Polish culture. Provide specific examples of ethnic and cultural norms from German and Polish culture.
  • Describe how different aspects of cultural identity affect your own individual actions, attitudes, identity, self-perception, self-esteem, and relationships.
  • Explain how different social psychological concepts contributed to the emergence of the Holocaust under Nazi Germany, including conformity, obedience, persuasion, aggression, prejudice, and discrimination.
  • Describe current ethnic conflicts that have emerged in present-day German and Polish culture.
  • Communicate and ask questions from people of similar and different opinions and cultural backgrounds, and identify cultural barriers in communication.

Location Description

Munich is in the heart of Bavaria, providing a wonderful introduction to traditional German culture and identity. Our city tour will include Marienplatz, Viktualienmarkt, city churches, and more. From Munich, we will take day-trips to Augsburg to understand Swabian culture and ethnicity, Schwangau to see King Ludwig's massive "fairytale" castle Schloss Neuschwanstein, and the notorious Dachau concentration camp to learn about the Holocaust. We move to Berlin next to understand more about how WWII and the division of Germany into East and West impacted people and present-day psychology. Visits will include the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the DDR Museum, and the artsy Kreuzberg neighborhood. Here we will focus on the psychology of acculturation and immigration to understand perspectives from several minority groups including Turkish-German, Vietnamese-German, and the expatriate community.

From here we train to Warsaw, Poland, where we will learn about the German occupation and Soviet Communist influence on present-day psychology. Visits will include the new POLIN Jewish Culture and History Museum, the Warsaw Rising Museum, a Communist-era milk bar, and the former Jewish ghetto. Our last days will be in the heart of Poland, the former capital city of Kraków. Here we will see the beautiful city square Rynek Glowny, and the Jewish district of Kazimierz, with Oskar Schindler's former enamel-ware factory nearby. We will also visit Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oswiecim) to understand Nazi ideology and the massive scale and horrific violence that occurred during the Holocaust. In Kraków especially we will explore traditional Polish ethnic identity, the Silesian ethnicity, and Jewish culture, identity, and psychology.


Matthew Lee | | Psychology


Students will be in shared double or triple rooms or suites, based on the number of students who successfully apply to the program. Housing accommodations are centrally located and public transportation is easily accessible. Hotels will be 3-star (or above) and will have wifi. All rooms will have ensuite bathrooms/toilets, and some will have an ensuite kitchenette. We will only stay in a hostel (with private rooms) if there is a relatively small number of students enrolled in the program.

Students will be allocated several meal stipends that will cover approximately 7 meals for the week.

Regular group meals in local restaurants sampling ethnic German and Polish cuisine will be paid for by the program. Breakfast will be covered in all of the student housing.

Additional Items to Consider

Open to ALL majors.

No visa required for US passport holders

Students with language proficiency in German or Polish (or other Slavic languages), and coursework in history or European culture will be reviewed favorably, but is not required.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.7

Prerequisite: At least one course in psychology

PSYC majors seeking to take this class at the 400-level must have completed (or be completing) at least two 300-level courses in PSYC.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • Interview with Program Director
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU and first semester transfer students.

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

apply now Closed for 2016

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


PSYC 200: Topics in Psychology: Ethnic Identity, Conflict, and the Holocaust (3 credits)

PSYC 400: Advanced Topics in Psychology: Ethnic Identity, Conflict, and the Holocaust (3 credits)

PSYC 202: Directed Studies in Psychology: Cross-Cultural Psychology in Germany and Poland Prep Course (1 credit) *spring 2016 course

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.