The first time I went to Europe, I was on a trip that brought us to Eastern Europe to tour the concentration camps. It was a trip for Jewish teens. We had the opportunity to see where our roots came from. The chance to understand what happened to the Jewish communities in Europe after the Holocaust. At the time, I was a bit young to understand the meaning of it all, but intrigued by traveling to a place I had never been.


On this trip, we went to Lithuania, Poland, and the Czech Republic: three countries that were home to thriving Jewish communities before the war. We went to see the old Jewish Quarters, the concentration camps and mass graves. Of course, we also explored the modern day cities of Krakow, Warsaw, Vilnius, and Prague.


concentration camps


Now, when envisioning oneself on a tour of Europe, this might not sound like the most exciting way to see the continent. But, it’s definitely eye-opening, and if you’re the kind of person who wants to learn more about the places you’re traveling to, then this is the kind of trip for you.


We explored Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Warsaw Ghetto, Treblinka, Majdanek, and many other places. We walked through gas chambers, memorials, and synagogues that were once the center of these thriving communities. It was a lot to take in, and I wondered how many tourists actually saw this side of Europe.


Of course, we took days off from the emotion. We enjoyed the cities, tried the food, took photos in front of the Lenin Wall. We rocked lame tourist t-shirts that said, “Czech Me Out.”


Coming face to face with the horrors that happened nearly seventy years before I was there was difficult. Because of this trip, I’ve certainly traveled differently since then. But, I’ll never forget how much I saw and learned on that trip. Nowadays, when I travel, I always take a little time to learn about that country’s past. In the Cambodia, it was the Killing Fields. In Vietnam, it was the Agent Orange exhibit at the War Museum. And, in South Korea, it was the DMZ.


Though there are many ways to see Europe, I suggest taking a different route while you’re there. In addition to Eastern Europe being a part of the continent that tends to be underrated, it has so much recent history that’s often overlooked.


Consider looking into tours that will take you through the Europe of WWII. And, really, get more out of your trip than you could ever imagine. 


Hana LaRock is originally from New York, though has called other places around the world her home for the last two years. She currently lives in Mexico and freelance travel writer. When she’s not working, she enjoys writing, reading, spending time with her dog, and of course, traveling. You can find her at