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professor and students in front of a large churchAt Asbury University, students have so many options when it comes to cross-cultural experiences from study abroad to mission work to positions at the Olympics. One of those opportunities is the Human Dignity Tour of Central Europe, an integrative 11-day trip, led by professor Dr. Paul Nesselroade.

Nesselroade and this year’s cohort of students recently returned from the experience which took place between May 11-22. During the psychology trip, the group visited several spots throughout Germany, Poland and the Netherlands. The course focuses on the history of the eugenics movement and the concept of inherent human dignity.

The Human Dignity Tour (PSY 393) is offered each year and counts as 3.0 credit hours in psychology in addition to fulfilling the CCE 073 requirement (Cross-Cultural).

“Asbury students took in a challenging agenda of sights as we traveled around Berlin, Germany and Krakow, Poland,” Nesselroade said. “Over the course of 11 days we explored various ways the Nazis assaulted human dignity; including their Aktion T-4 euthanasia center in Brandenburg, the concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Ravensbruck, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination center in Poland. We also witnessed evidence of resistance and forgiveness as we visited the Schindler Factory Museum and toured the Ten Boom House in Haarlem, Netherlands.

a concrete archway with Hebrew letteringYear after year, the program has challenged students to deepen their faith and ask tough questions about the real-life problems and goings-on of the world.

“The students were like sponges, soaking it all up and interacting with the exhibits and our guides,” Nesselroade said. “Even though the topic is as dark as it can get, we were able to find evidence of hope within the exhibits themselves and the people of Germany and Poland. We learned that evil and good exist right next to each other and were challenged to think about how this realization might apply to our own lives.”

Daniel Chin ’19 was part of this year’s cohort and appreciated getting to be immersed in the European culture as well as learning about the topic of the Holocaust outside of the classroom, in the context in which it actually occurred. Chin also enjoyed participating in the conversations and discussions facilitated by Nesselroade.

“The biggest lesson I learned from this trip is that I must be vigilant and guard my heart always making sure I ask questions about good and bad and base my decision on His word,” Chin said. “This trip taught me that if we put a value on anything, it becomes an object, including humans. It is easier for evil to prevail when dehumanization exists but it is also amidst such evil that acts of love become so much more genuine and magnified.”

Cross of David and flowers by an old railroad track at a concentration campRecent graduate Faith Neece ’18 was among the students who participated in this year’s tour. Neece was challenged to explore complex topics throughout the experience.

“I learned that every human being has capacity for good and capacity for evil,” Neece said. “We want to separate ourselves from the Nazis, but it’s true that all of us have the capacity to hate. But we also have the capacity to love. And Christ renews this in us. I learned too that there is something special about being human. Seeing people as ‘inhuman’ makes way for hate in us. We have to make room to see the human in the ‘other,’ even the ones committing mass crimes.”

The Human Dignity Tour gives students a space to face these dark parts of history while looking at them with the hope of Christ in mind.

“This is such a unique opportunity, one you won’t be able to get anywhere else. What other trip offers such a thorough look at World War II history? And students will be able to discuss these issues from a Christian perspective, which is very important,” Neece said. “We do not shy away from looking at these hard things, but we also have hope in our savior who makes all things new. Plus, we had a bunch of fun on the trip too! We don’t just do sad things!”

To learn more about the Human Dignity Tour of Central Europe and Asbury University’s Psychology Department visit www.asbury.edu/academics/departments/psychology/.