Poland Study Abroad Program (Summer 2024)

Poland Summer

International Law and the Holocaust

June 11 – July 2, 2024

This summer, Dr. Charles W. Powell of the Ansari Institute along with Emilia J. Powell, a native of Poland, Professor at the Department of Political Science, and Concurrent Professor at the Law School at Notre Dame, will co-lead a 3-week intensive course in Poland. This course is designed as a fully immersive cultural, international, and intellectual experience for students. Most class instruction occurs on site, at major sites and museums in Warsaw, Auschwitz/Birkenau, Gdansk, and other surrounding cities. The course will immerse students in the historical and cultural context of Poland, make them reflect on the Holocaust and how it influenced international law, and experience Polish life.

Professor Powell will lead the students in this course to examine the evolution of international law from World War II on with a particular focus on genocide, and crimes against humanity. Students will learn, examine, and evaluate modern theories of international law and political science. Are post WWII theories - realism, liberalism, constructivism - better able to redefine pre-existing ideas about human behavior in times of conflict? We will examine how the Holocaust and World War II have shaped the need for interstate peace, and how these events became major catalysts for modern international justice. We will also consider the meaning of international justice (empirical and via theoretical lenses), its execution on the international arena, and the way that this concept has evolved in the post-war period. Can inferences about human behavior during Holocaust be generalized to modern incidents of genocide? Can we identify generalizable factors (social, economic, political, etc.) that are linked to violations of international law? What is the value of using in-depth qualitative interviews, field work, and large-N statistical studies to elucidate mechanisms of mass atrocities? This seminar embraces an interdisciplinary approach to teaching: we will study international law through visiting historical landmarks in Poland, focusing on international law/political science theories, in-depth interviews, participants observations, documentary films, and meetings with Polish policymakers. In sum, this course teaches students to use empirically-based information (in-depth interviews, memoirs, participant observations) to illuminate theories of international relations and international law.

Additionally, Dr. Powell will lead discussions on the function of narrative empathy in recognizing universal human needs as a complement to the development of international law. Moreover, students will be invited to learn and discuss how to process empathy towards others in a constructive way that advances the fostering of integral human development. Secondly, Dr. Powell will introduce students to the role of religion in Hitler’s rhetoric and religion in Nazi Germany. Finally, he will lead discussions on the role of religion in international relations.

Some activities for students include a guided tour and workshop at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. They will walk the halls of Schindler’s Museum in Krakow. They will learn the history of Polish Jews by visiting the Polin Museum in Warsaw. In addition to numerous outside lectures and discussions, students will experience the Warsaw Uprising Museum, and the Warsaw City Museum. In Gdansk, students will tour the Solidarity Museum, Museum of the Second World War, and visit the spot where WWII erupted –Westerplatte.

This course is cross listed with POLS 34220, IIPS 34410, CNST 34401 and offered through the University of Notre Dame Summer Study Abroad program.

Read about one student's experience participating in this class in the summer of 2023. Read Erin Drumm's reflection here.