SMU Partnership: WWII & Cold War
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Date(s) - 16/05/2022 - 26/05/2022
All Day

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Czech and Germany in WWII and the Cold War: A Travel Experience for Students, Alumni & Friends of SMU -- This trip is full!

May 16-26, 2022

Southern Methodist University’s (SMU’s) Center for Presidential History’s Jeffrey A. Engel and Essential History Expeditions’ Brian DeToy are pleased to partner for an on-site exploration of Prague, Nuremberg, Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin, walking the cities and fields where soldiers fought for Europe’s liberation and spies schemed for generations to create a new world order. This intergenerational tour offers three credits for students, and for alumni and friends the opportunity to see the places history took place — and to relive a bit of college life.

This fully guided and immersive tour will explore the people and places of central Europe, from the September 1938 German occupation of Czechoslovakia, to the liberation battles in 1944-45; 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 and cities of two nations caught between the Great Powers. We will walk the fields and city streets, learn from local experts and guest lecturers, and be assigned a renowned (or reviled) figure from history to investigate and role-play. Plus, we’ll have plenty of time to explore these iconic sites on your own and to reconnect with SMU friends and students in some of Europe’s most scenic sites. This trip will also provide opportunities to connect with current SMU students through meaningful discussions and mentorship.

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 last battle for Berlin, as well as aspects of the war such as Final Solution death and concentration camps, and the Resistance of Czechs, Germans 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 1989 Velvet Revolution, among others.

We will begin in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. 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.

Heading west, our next stop is northern Bavaria and the spiritual home of Nazi Germany – Nuremberg. Here we will examine the great Nazi Rally stadium and the courthouse where the famed post-war trials brought Nazis leaders to international justice.  The Old Town also has many Habsburg imperial sites that we will explore.

From Nuremberg we drive over and through the hilly, picturesque Thuringerwald into the old East Germany. We will stop in Jena, a great university town and examine the pivotal October 1806 battle in which the French under Napoleon destroyed the old Prussian Empire in the twin battles of Jena-Auerstadt. Then, it’s on to 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.

Heading west, we will visit Leipzig, home to Bach and the epicenter of Cold war German resistance to the DDR and Soviets. In the 1980s, it was the citizens of Leipzig who were at the forefront of the protest movements. We will visit sites from those days as well as discuss the 1813 Battle of Nations, the largest in European history until World War One.

Before entering Berlin, we will stop at the Elbe River and visit the bridge at Torgau, where American and Russian forces met in April 1945, sealing off the Germans in Berlin. In Wittenberg we will have lunch in the old Market Square and visit the Castle Church where on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the side door and began a revolution that we call the Reformation. Then, in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam we will discuss the final allied conference of the war as well as sites of King 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 central European expedition will take us to new regions and provide expansive opportunities to discover how our new world came to be.

SMU Essential History Expeditions WWII Cold War Tour
WWII History Tour
WWII Eastern Europe History Tour
WWII Eastern Europe History Tour
Berlin WWII History Tour
Berlin Cold War History Tour
Berlin History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour


Jeffrey A. Engel is founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and a Senior Fellow of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. Author or editor of ten books on American foreign policy, his latest is When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War.

Essential History Expeditions’ president, expert historian and guide, Lt Col (Ret) Brian DeToy, PhD served as Director of the Defense & Strategic Studies program at the United States Military Academy, West Point from 2007-13. He has appeared in numerous documentaries for programming such as History, Discovery, A&E and Military channels. He is also an accomplished author and presenter at international history conferences.

SMU History Tours
Dr Brian DeToy Essential History Expeditions


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.

Normandy france tours


“We were educated, inspired, and deeply moved by the D-Day program and tour! The tour was life-changing. Thanks to you and your team for doing an outstanding job in conveying the extraordinary bravery, courage, and sacrifice by U.S. and Allied military personnel during WWII. We are forever indebted to them for the freedom to live our lives as we do today. The group on the tour was a terrific mix of students, alumni, and friends of the University. You and Sheryl are now members of the SMU family. Cheyenne and I have already told others about the extraordinary quality of your work and that you have an effective business that delivers the tours.”

— Steve Currall, Former Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Southern Methodist University

“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, SMU Alumni

“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!”

— Jeffrey Engel, Director, Center for Presidential History, Southern Methodist University

SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
Essential History Expeditions Tours
Brian DeToy Sheryl Shafer Gettysburg guided tours
Prague History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour

Day 1, May 16: Arrival in Prague

  • Arrival and check into our central Prague lodgings.
  • Time on your own to explore Prague.
  • Group dinner and introductions. SMU’s Director of Presidential History Dr Jeffrey Engel and Essential History Expeditions’ Dr Brian DeToy will provide opening remarks.

Day 2, May 17: Prague Old Town and Jewish Quarter

  • Breakfast
  • 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 in 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.
  • Lunch on your own in Old Town Prague.
  • Afternoon walking tour of 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.
  • Dinner on your own.
  • Group classical musical performance at one of the extraordinary venues, some of the finest in all of Europe. Mandatory for students; optional for alumni/friends.
  • Prague hotel: Residence Agnes

Day 3, Wednesday, May 18: Prague in WWII and 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.
  • Group lunch 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.
  • Dinner on your own.
  • Prague Hotel: Residence Agnes

Day 4, Thursday, May 19: Prague to Nuremberg

  • Breakfast
  • Check out of hotel and load luggage on bus.
  • Drive to Nuremberg.
  • Afternoon visit at the Nazi Rally Grounds, where 150,000 screaming supporters cheered Hitler’s every word. We will also visit the Nazi Documentation Center Museum, located in the Congress Hall.
  • Group lunch in Nuremberg.
  • Arrive at hotel and check-in.
  • Evening walking tour of Old Town Nuremberg with sites to include places important to both the First Reich (Holy Roman Empire) and Third Reich (Nazi) – the Konigstrasse, Monument to German WWII Refugees, St Lawrence Church, Hauptmarkt (Main Market), Imperial Castle and Albrecht Durer House.
  • Dinner on your own in Old Town.
  • Nuremberg hotel: Le Meridien Grand Hotel (Marriott)
Eastern Europe History Tour
Essential History Expeditions Prague Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe WWII History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Dresden History Tour

Day 5, Friday, May 20: Nuremberg to Jena and Dresden

  • Breakfast
  • Load luggage and depart hotel
  • Visit the Nuremberg Trials Courtroom & Museum, where the Allies tried the most senior Nazis in 1945-46 for crimes against humanity.
  • Drive to Jena.
  • A famed university town in Thuringia, Jena was a focal point of the German intellectual revolution of the first half of the 19th century, including the student liberal and unification movement and German Romanticism. Notable persons were Friedrich Schiller, Alexander von Humboldt, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Novalis and August Wilhelm Schlegel.
  • Group lunch in central Jena.
  • In the afternoon we will visit the battlefield of Jena, one of Napoleon’s twin victories on October 14, 1806, that enabled the French to destroy the Prussian Empire and brought them to the borders of Russia. Usually described as one of Napoleon’s most impressive battles, this examination will allow us to consider how the ideas of the French Revolution and Napoleon impacted future warfare and politics.
  • Drive to Dresden.
  • Entering the city, stop by the site of 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 in a single night.
  • Check-in to central Dresden lodgings.
  • Group dinner in Old Town Dresden.
  • Dresden hotel: Hilton Dresden or similar

Day 6, Saturday, May 21: Dresden

  • Breakfast
  • On our morning walking tour of central Dresden we 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.
  • Lunch on your own in Dresden.
  • Afternoon on your own to explore the sights of Old Town Dresden, including: the Zwinger art museums, Theatreplatz, the Frauenkirche cathedral, Parade of Nobles, and the Military History Museum (the largest museum in all of Germany!), among other notable sites. For students, the Military Museum is a required visit.
  • Dinner on your own in central Dresden.
  • Dresden hotel: Hilton Dresden or similar

Day 7, Sunday, May 22: Leipzig

  • Breakfast
  • Drive by the KGB headquarters where, in November 1989, Lt Col Vladimir Putin frantically destroyed records and files as the Berlin Wall fell.
  • Drive to Leipzig.
  • Visit the grand memorial, one of Europe’s biggest, commemorating the pivotal October 1813 Battle of Leipzig, known as the Battle of Nations and the largest European battle until WWI, in which the weight of the combined allies defeated Napoleon’s army and drove it back to the gates of France.
  • Group lunch in Leipzig.
  • Visit Cold War sites of this city that was the epicenter for German resistance to the Soviet Union and DDR in the 1980s – Augustusplatz, St Nicholas Church (where a decade-long prayer movement was the central focus of the Peaceful Revolution that brought down the DDR) and the Stasi Museum (detailing the Cold War East German secret police).
  • Visit Johan Sebastian Bach sites in St Thomas Church and Bach museum nearby. Bach is one of the world’s greatest and most important composers.
  • Dinner on your own in the Old Town.
  • Leipzig hotel: Leipzig Marriott or similar

Day 8, Monday, May 23: Leipzig to Berlin

  • Breakfast
  • Load luggage and depart hotel.
  • Begin drive to Berlin with stop in Torgau to see where Americans and Soviets first joined hands in April 1945, encircling the Nazi forces in the Berlin region and signaling the regime’s approaching end.
  • Continue drive with stop in Wittenberg to view the Castle Church, upon the door of which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. This act brought the Protestant Reformation into full bloom and the western world has not been the same since.
  • Lunch on your own in Wittenberg’s charming old Market Square.
  • Continue drive with a stop in Potsdam, just outside of Berlin and the capital of the Brandenburg state. It was also the home of Prussian monarchs for 200 years.
  • In Potsdam, we will first visit the Cecilienhof palace to discuss 18th century King Frederick II (The Great) who made modern Prussia a state to be reckoned with as well as the final WWII Allied Conference in July 1945 in the where Harry Truman, Churchill, Atlee and Stalin made final plans to defeat Japan all the while setting the course of the Cold War.
  • Next, we will drive over the Bridge of Spies where the Soviets and the Allies exchanged prisoners (made famous in the Tom Hanks movie of the same name) to visit the estate on Wannsee lake where the Nazis developed the Final Solution plans.
  • Drive to Tempelhof Airport where the AirBridge Memorial commemorates the brave pilots of the 1948-49 Airlift that kept West Berlin supplied under the Soviet noose.
  • Continue drive to check-in to lodgings in central Berlin.
  • Group dinner at hotel or nearby restaurant.
  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott or similar

Day 9, Tuesday, May 24: Historic Western Berlin

  • Breakfast
  • Morning walking tour of western 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.
  • Highlights on our walk include: Checkpoint Charlie, the Topography of Terror (SS Museum), the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, the Tiergarten, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, site of Hitler’s Bunker, Wilhelmstrasse government buildings and embassies, and more.
  • Dinner on your own.
  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott or similar

Day 10, Wednesday, May 25: East Berlin in the Cold War

  • Breakfast
  • We’ll start the morning with a walking tour of Eastern Berlin, down famed Unter den Linden, from Pariserplatz to 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.
  • 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 lecture with SMU’s own Dr. Jeffrey Engel.
  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott or similar

Day 11, Thursday, May 26: Departure and Onward Journeys

  • Breakfast
  • Onward journeys
WWII Cold War History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Eastern Europe History Tour
Berlin History Tour
Berlin History Tour
Prague History Tour


  • Ten and a half days of in-depth guided tours, led by two expert historians
  • Accommodations for ten nights in Prague, Nuremberg, Dresden, Leipzig 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.


  • Pricing for alumni/friends: $4,995 per person, double occupancy; $750 single occupancy supplement.
  • Deposit of $1,000 required to register. This $1,000 is tax deductible, for student programming.
  • To register for the trip, email the Center for Presidential History at or call 214.768.3210.
  • Pricing for students: $3,250, double occupancy; students may stay at nearby hotels to alumni/friends.
  • If the trip must be canceled because of Covid-19, or is cancelled by SMU, SMU’s CPH will refund the $1,000 per person deposit. EHE will refund all payments minus absolute sunk costs, ie, a hotel chain such as Marriott or Hilton files for bankruptcy and EHE cannot recoup deposit funds. EHE will be judicious in any deposit payments to ensure any risk remains minimal. This is pending approval from the Office of Legal Affairs (as of 5/14/20).
  • Itinerary subject to minor changes.
  • Airfare not included.
  • All repeat guests of Essential History Expeditions receive a 10 percent discount on all future expeditions.
SMU Partnership: WWII & Cold War 16/05/2022 - 26/05/2022 All Day SMU Partnership: WWII & Cold War SMU Partnership: WWII & Cold War Join SMU’s Center for Presidential History’s Jeffrey A. Engel and Essential History Expeditions’ Brian DeToy for a spectacular and engaging examination of central Europe’s rich history and culture. With a WWII/Cold War focus, this expedition will also bridge the Mission Critical Systems 16-05-2022T00:00 16-05-2022T23:59 Active Active 16-05-2022 Active $0.00 16-05-2022
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