Eastern Europe: WWII & Cold War
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Date(s) - 24/09/2021 - 03/10/2021
All Day

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The East: Poland, Czech and Germany in WWII and the Cold War

September 24-October 3, 2021 & September 23 - October 1, 2022

This fully guided and immersive tour will explore the people and places of eastern Europe, from the September 1939 German invasion of Poland, through the two uprisings of Warsaw (the Ghetto in 1943, and entire city in 1944); through the battle of Berlin in April-May 1945 that completed Europe’s liberation from Nazi rule; and then on through the decades-long Cold War in the capitals of three nations caught between the Great Powers.

While Americans, naturally, focus on the “western” campaigns of North Africa, Italy and, especially, northwest Europe from D-Day through the Battle of the Bulge and on into western Germany – scholars know that the main theater of the war was the Eastern front. The Soviets and Nazi Germany engaged in a titanic land struggle that dwarfed the western invasions. This expedition will examine several key elements of that Ost (“east”) front – including its first campaign in Poland and its last battle for Berlin, as well as aspects of the war such as Final Solution death and concentration camps, and the Resistance of Poles and others. Finally, in each of the major locations, we will examine what came next – the Cold War struggle for over 40 years that engaged the efforts of the USA and the USSR and their allies. We will examine the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift, 1961 and 1989 Berlin Wall episodes, the 1968 Prague Spring and the 1980s Solidarity Movement in Poland, among others.

Beginning in Warsaw, we will examine gallant Poland’s fight against overwhelming odds in September 1939, as well as its abortive uprisings in 1943 and 1944 (the first, the famed Ghetto Rising). No one fought as valiantly as the Poles in this war – from these risings to the tens of thousands fighting with the Western Allies in Italy and France-Germany. Lech Walesa’s Solidarity Movement rounds out our Cold War theme. In earlier history, King Sigismund moved the Polish capital here from Krakow and his statue graces the beautiful Old Town.

Moving southwest into the Carpathian foothills, we reach Krakow, the Nazi military’s most significant garrison, where we will explore the chilling Nazi death camp apparatus at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Krakow is the historic heart of Poland and remains one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It was long part of the Habsburg Empire and is Western-facing and lively, while Warsaw is a more conservative eastern-facing city. While it has long been a very Catholic city, King Casimir had welcomed Jews in the 14th century and by 1939 the city was 25% Jewish in 1939. Poland also had the most Jews of any country in Europe. The art, architecture and natural setting, along with the history, combine for a memorable visit.

‎Heading west, we will reach the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague. It was Hitler’s annexation of Czech Sudetenland that led to the infamous 1938 Munich agreement. In Prague we will examine the Habsburg city’s history along with its 1945 liberation and, most important, its abortive Cold War thawing in the 1968 Prague Spring and then the successful 1989 Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel.

Returning north, we will stop in Dresden, the classical city destroyed in one of the worst fire-bombing air raids of WWII, immortalized in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. We will also discuss the titanic 1813 Napoleonic battle here that resulted in the naming of the first true Allied Supreme Commander (forerunning Foch in 1918, and Eisenhower in 1944-45). Here is also where Colonel Vladimir Putin spent his days at the end of the Cold War, right up to the collapse of Berlin’s Wall. Just before entering Berlin, we will stop in the suburb of Potsdam to discuss the final allied conference of the war as well as visit the tomb of Frederick the Great.

Arriving in our final stop – Berlin – we will spend several days in examining the climactic battle of the European war as well as decades of Cold war spy-vs-spy craft.  Berlin was not only the Nazi capital and headquarters, but it also includes nearby sites associated with the war – from the Final Solution at the Wansee Conference to the world-renowned Holocaust Memorial. The battle for Berlin in the spring of 1945 was on a scale of vicious fighting and retribution and destruction that can scarcely be imagined. Moving on to the Cold War, we will examine the critical Berlin Airlift of 1948-49, as well as the building and subsequent destruction of the Wall in 1961 and 1989. Checkpoint Charlie, Tempelhof Airport, spies, and much more await.

The Reunification of Germany in 1990 has created an economic and diplomatic powerhouse in the center of Europe. For centuries this nation has occupied a critical space on the Continent and on the world stage. At no time was this more true than in the years of World War Two and the subsequent Cold War. This expedition will take us to new regions and provide expansive opportunities to discover how our new world came to be.

WWII Eastern Europe Tour
WWII History Tour
WWII Eastern Europe History Tour
WWII Eastern Europe History Tour


While Europe is, of course, accessible to American travelers on their own, fully understanding the events in Eastern Europe during WWII and the Cold War, so large in scale and scope, requires months if not years of preparation. A professional, guided experience is essential in comprehending the complexities of the events and their timing, specific locations and personalities. Tours are available through many companies in Normandy. What sets Essential History Expeditions and Dr. Brian DeToy apart is his unique experience with 14 years as a university professor including teaching history and strategic studies at West Point, 28 years as a US Army officer with combat experience, and 27 years of leading groups at Normandy. Brian’s many Normandy tours, both large and small, include military leaders, West Point professors and cadets, and business leaders of international companies. Brian’s combined experience as a scholar soldier brings the events of this hallowed ground to life.

If a guest has a family member who served in Eastern Europe, Brian will research the service member’s unit and weave that information into the tour, visiting all relevant locations and markers. Previous guests find this personalized approach to be emotionally gratifying and memorable.

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“You simply will not find a better “team” than Sheryl and Brian. Sheryl’s attention to detail is unsurpassed – her goal is your comfort at all times. Brian’s expertise and his ability to share his depth of knowledge and commitment to our country in a way anyone can understand is truly a gift not to be missed. My husband and I spent 11 days with Essential History Expeditions exploring the history and sites of D-Day. Brian’s experiences as a U. S. Army Ranger (Col. ret.) and professor at West Point, along with his intimate knowledge of war, are shared with a passion that is palpable. Our new understanding of the D-Day operations is beyond anything we imagined.Sheryl’s compassion for her fellow travelers overflows -she anticipates your every need and is ready to provide whatever it is you need. I simply cannot imagine choosing any other leaders now that I know what an educational trip can provide. If you are considering a trip – don’t miss this organization. If you do, you will miss something to treasure for the rest of your life!”

— Retired Dallas educator

“I would not, ever, take a history-focused trip with anyone else!  Brian is a walking encyclopedia, and Sheryl the most competent and caring person I know.  Having worked with them for several years now on several trips, I can say without reservation that they are THE BEST and we will be happily planning and taking more trips with them in years to come!”

— Director, Center for Presidential History, Southern Methodist University

“I have never been on a trip like this. It was beyond my expectations. My sister, niece and I just completed the 75th Anniversary of D-Day expedition with Brian and Sheryl. Our father (and grandfather) was in WWII. Brian looked up the information and made us feel like our loved one was standing next to us. Brian’s knowledge and humor made the experience unforgettable. Sheryl ‘s organizational skills made every step look effortless. The sleeping accommodations were top class and the food was exceptional. I highly recommend any expedition with Brian and Sheryl.”

— Retired

EHE Brian DeToy & Sheryl Rankin Shafer
Brian DeToy Sheryl Shafer Gettysburg guided tours
Essential History Expeditions Tours
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour

Day 1: Arrival in Warsaw

  • Arrival and check in to Warsaw lodgings.
  • Enjoy Warsaw on your own in the morning and lunch on your own
  • Afternoon group walking tour of central Warsaw and discussion of 1939 invasion and defeat by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia; sites include the historic Old Town with its King Sigismund statue.
  • Group dinner and introductions at a prestigious location. Essential History Expeditions’ Dr. Brian DeToy will provide opening remarks.
  • Warsaw hotel: TBD

Day 2: Warsaw in WWII and Cold War

  • Breakfast
  • Morning walking tour of the city to discuss the abortive 1943 and 1944 uprisings against Nazi rule, including a visit to the site of the ancient Jewish Ghetto and Ghetto Hero Square. Several museums cover these critical uprisings. Over 1 million Jews were moved into Ghetto; half had died by 1942; and it was down to 60,000 when they rose up in 1943. The 1944 rising has several monuments and the 50,000-man strong Polish Resistance Army was largest underground army in history. We will also then talk of Warsaw in the Cold War from Stalin’s Palace of Culture and have a discussion of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity Movement of the 1980s.
  • Group Lunch in a central city location.
  • Afternoon time on your own to explore the magnificent museums and culture of this vibrant capital city.
  • Dinner on your own.
  • Warsaw hotel: TBD

Day 3: Warsaw to Krakow

  • Breakfast
  • Checkout of hotel and load luggage on bus.
  • Drive to the southwestern Polish city of Krakow at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. (4 hour drive).
  • After lunch in historic Market Square, we will conduct a walking tour of central Krakow, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and discussion of Polish Resistance in WWII (including a young future pope, John Paul II). Krakow, and especially Wawel Hill and its castle and cathedral, is the sacred Heart of Poland
  • Group dinner in central Krakow.
  • Krakow hotel: TBD

Day 4: Auschwitz and Krakow

  • Breakfast
  • Morning visit to nearby Auschwitz concentration camp, one of the most infamous sites in world history, forever linked to the Nazis Final Solution. The Jewish cemeteries back in Krakow were bull-dozed by the Germans but today are phenomenal mosaics in homage of those who passed.
  • Group lunch in Krakow
  • Afternoon time to explore the gorgeous old city on your own.
  • Dinner on your own in the old city.
  • Overnight train in private sleeping cabins to Prague. (Euronight)
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Essential History Expeditions Prague Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tours
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour

Day 5: Old Town Prague and Jewish Quarter

  • Breakfast
  • Arrival and transfer to our central Prague lodgings.
  • Walking tour of central Prague’s Stare Mesto (Old Town) focused on Habsburg and Jewish history. The Habsburgs dominated the Holy Roman Empire for much of its millennium and were one of the great dynasties in European history.
  • Old Town Square – a market since the 11th century and scene of incredible bustle today. The fabulous 500 year old Astronomical Clock, the memorial to Jan Hus (an early Catholic dissident) and the Czech people, and an incredible array of architectural styles will astound all.
  • Church of Our Lady before Tyn – grandly Gothic across from the musical Church of St Nicholas.
  • Eastern end of the fabulous Charles Bridge at sunset, the iconic view of Prague.
  • Group lunch in Old Town Prague.
  • The Jewish Quarter, one of Europe’s largest and most important, is also worth an extended visit. Over 120,000 lived here in 1939; 10,000 survived the war:
  • Old Jewish Cemetery – a beautiful, haunting site, with 12,000 graves and more than 100,000 burials.
  • Old-New Synagogue – since 1270, Europe’s oldest active synagogue, heart and soul of the community.
  • Spanish Synagogue – Prague’s most beautiful and a museum to Jewish history.
  • Check in to the hotel.
  • Time on your own to further explore Old Town Prague with dinner on your own.
  • Prague hotel: Residence Agnes.

Day 6: Prague in the Cold War

  • Breakfast
  • Morning walking tour of Prague’s Nove Mesto (New Town) and its role in WWII and the Cold War, focused on the revolutions of 1968 and 1989.
  • Wenceslas Square – the “heart” of modern Prague, this is where the people celebrated the creation of the state in 1918, the Soviets crushed the Prague Spring of Alexander Dubcek in 1968, and 300,000 Czechs marched for freedom with Vaclav Havel in 1989! The statue of the “Good King” Wenceslas dominates the square.
  • The Memorial to the Victims of Communism on the spot where philosophy student Jan Palach self-immolated in protest against the state in 1969.
  • Walk along Narodni Trida, the street where the students of 1989 began their fight, literally with the police, for freedom. This was the beginning of the Velvet Revolution.
  • National Theatre – the Cradle of Czech Culture.
  • Walk along the Vitava River to the Dancing House and Greek Church where Czech’s most famous WWII soldiers were finally run down and killed by the Nazis but only after they had assassinated the notorious German Reinhard Heydrich.
  • Lunch on your own in central Prague.
  • In the afternoon, time for you to explore on your own the incredible array of museums and sites in the gorgeous old city, including crossing the fabulous Charles Bridge that connects the city and Castle Quarter, Lennon Wall (gathering place for dissidents and poets and lovers since 1980), Prague Castle (home to Bohemian kings for centuries) and its gorgeous St Vitus Cathedral, and more.
  • Group dinner near the music venue.
  • Group musical performance at one of the many extraordinary venues, some of the finest in all of Europe.
  • Prague Hotel: Residence Agnes

Day 7: Prague to Berlin

  • Breakfast
  • Load luggage and depart hotel
  • Drive to Dresden
  • Walking tour of central Dresden where will discuss the old Saxony of the Wettin dynasty that ruled much of eastern Germany until the end of the Great War in 1918; along with the August 1813 Napoleonic campaign (the French Emperor’s last victory in Germany) that gave us our first Allied commander-in-chief, the Austrian Field Marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg; as well as the horrific February 13, 1945, WWII fire-bombing, that American POW Kurt Vonnegut survived to write about in his classic novel Slaughterhouse Five. Twenty-five thousand Dresdeners perished that single night.
  • Visit to the KGB headquarters where, in November 1989, Lt Col Vladimir Putin frantically destroyed records and files as the Berlin Wall fell.
  • Group lunch in Dresden.
  • Continue drive to Berlin with stop in Potsdam
  • Potsdam – discussion of 18th century King Frederick II (The Great) who made modern Prussia a state to be reckoned with; and the final WWII Allied Conference in July 1945 in the Cecilienhof palace where Harry Truman, Churchill, Atlee and Stalin made final plans to defeat Japan all the while setting the course of the Cold War. Other nearby sites include the Wannsee lake where the Nazis developed the Final Solution plans and the Bridge of Spies where the Soviets and the Allies exchanged prisoners (made famous in the Tom Hanks movie of the same name).
  • Check-in to central Berlin lodgings.
  • Group dinner at hotel or nearby restaurant.
  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott or similar

Day 8: Historic Central Berlin

  • Breakfast
  • Full-day walking tours of historical central Berlin, “the Mitte,” from Prussian days through the Wilhelmine Empire and WWI and on through the heady cabaret days of Weimar and beyond. From its days as capital of the Third Reich to the final battles of World War Two, and then on through the Cold War – the Airlift, the Wall going up in 1961 and coming down in 1989.
  • Lunch on your own mid-way through the walk.
  • Highlights include: the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, site of Hitler’s Bunker, Wilhelmstrasse, walking down famed Unter den Linden, Friedrichstrasse, Bebelplatz, Museum Island (in the Spree River), the Berlin Cathedral to Alexanderplatz where in November 1989 half a million East Berliners demanded their freedom.
  • Dinner on your own.
  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott or similar

Day 9: Berlin in the Cold War

  • Breakfast
  • We’ll start the morning with a walking tour of Cold War Berlin events and personalities, with numerous sites including Checkpoint Charlie, part of the original Berlin Wall, and Tempelhof Airport where the AirBridge Memorial commemorates the brave pilots of the 1948-49 Airlift that kept West Berlin supplied under the Soviet noose.
  • Lunch on your own and additional afternoon time to explore the plethora of Berlin’s wonders on your own.
  • Tonight, we will enjoy a farewell group dinner and wrap-up talk with EHE’s Dr. Brian DeToy.
  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott

Day 10: Onward Journeys

  • Breakfast
  • Onward journeys
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Prague History Tour


  • Nine and a half days of in-depth guided tours, led by an expert historian
  • Accommodations for nine nights in Warsaw, Krakow, Prague and Berlin
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary
  • All museum entrance fees
  • Daily transportation
  • Personalized tour support
  • Alcoholic drinks are excluded
Eastern Europe History Tour


  • Let’s set up a conference call! We would love to chat with you to answer any questions you may have!
  • Just complete the contact form below and let’s set up a call.


  • Register now! This trip only has two spaces available.
  • Pricing 2021: $4,650 per person, double occupancy; $700 single occupancy supplement.
  • Pricing 2022: $4,950 per person, double occupancy; $700 single occupancy supplement.
  • Down payment: $1,000 per guest due upon registration.
  • All active duty and career retired military, and current and career retired educators will receive a 5 percent discount on the Normandy tour.
  • All repeat guests of Essential History Expeditions receive a 10 percent discount on all future expeditions.
  • Please see Terms and Conditions for payment schedule and cancellation policy.
Eastern Europe: WWII & Cold War 24/09/2021 - 03/10/2021 All Day Eastern Europe: WWII & Cold War Eastern Europe: WWII & Cold War Join us as we explore the vibrant culture, history, culinary delights and natural beauty of central Europe from Warsaw and Krakow through Prague to Berlin. The end of WWII and the Cold War provide an epic backdrop to this incredible expedition. Mission Critical Systems 24-09-2021T00:00 24-09-2021T23:59 Active Active 24-09-2021 Active $0.00 24-09-2021
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