In the name of peace, this autumn my daughter’s class is being taken on the annual tenth-grade school trip to Poland and Germany. It’s an eight-day bus tour of nazi concentration camps, organised by a group called Travel For Peace. It is voluntary, but every child in her year has signed up to take part. It begins with three days in Poland. They see the sights of Krakow and afterwards they’re taken through Auschwitz and Birkenau and visit the infamous railhead. Next, they go down the salt mines at Wieliczka; and then it’s onward to Germany, where they spend the first day at an amusement park called Tropical Islands. That’s followed by a tour of Berlin: Unter den Linden, the Brandenburg Gate, the Ku’damm, Potsdam, and so on, with a detour to a former Staasi prison in the afternoon. Their last day is spent at Sachsenhausen, in Oranienburg, on the outskirts of Berlin, and the women’s camp at Ravensbrück. And then it’s everybody back on the bus for the long ride home to Norway.

Although we’ve agreed to it, I don’t know how I really feel about the trip. Is a sightseeing bus tour for teenagers trivialising the holocaust? No. If this were a group of fifty-year-olds, I’d wonder a bit: why the ironic itinerary? why so many camps? But teenagers need distractions, the irony of making an amusement park visit on the way to KZ Sachsenhausen won’t be lost on them and a full tour will give them a fuller picture of what happened, probably. Even so, my daughter has never been indifferent to suffering and so I’m not sure how the trip will help her. Besides that, being against concentration camps and nazis is not the same as being in favour of peace. I hope the history is taught with subtlety rather than platitudes.

It’s an expensive holiday: nearly a thousand US dollars, plus spending money. That won’t cover all the costs; so we, the parents, have been asked to sell things. During the Christmas holidays we were supposed to sell chocolate biscuits: my daughter was alloted eight tins. They were pretty good, and by the time she went back to school we had eaten the lot. We had to pay for them ourselves, but it was worth it. The fact is that none of us had the nerve to go knocking on doors, trying to sell our neighbours chocolate biscuits — let alone in the name of peace, and let alone to pay for a tour of the death camps. Today I got an email from the organisers asking me to suggest other ways to raise money. Anything, just so I don’t have to go to the local shopping mall on Saturdays begging for spare change. I’m going to propose selling off the school’s parking lot to build housing; that should cover a few years’ worth of trips to Poland. They’ll never do it, and I don’t really blame them.

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