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A Pilgrimage to Auschwitz/Birkenau, Poland: A 6-Day Workshop

June 23, 2017 - June 29, 2017

A Pilgrimage to Auschwitz/Birkenau, Poland:

A 6-Day Workshop

Facilitated by
Psychotherapist and Drama Therapist
Armand Volkas & Anke Schäfer

Friday, June 23 to Thursday, June 29, 2017

$1200 to $1500
(Limited Reduced Fee Scholarships Available)


register-now-button-e1410064130893Workshop Description in German

(Workshop-Beschreibung auf Deutsch)

Who is this workshop for?

Second, third and fourth generation descendants of Holocaust survivors, Nazis, resistance fighters, soldiers, refugees—Jews, Germans, Dutch, Poles, Austrians, Italians, Lithuanians, French, Ukrainians, Roma, and other cultures and nationalities who carry a burdened legacy connected with the Holocaust, The Third Reich and WWII and seek a transformative experience, are invited to participate.

Why a workshop in Auschwitz?

Our pilgrimage to Auschwitz is about a search for meaning. It is about memory and remembering. It is about sharing personal story and being witnessed. It is about how trauma is passed from generation to generation. It is about working through and integrating the complex emotions that arise when we face history in a deeply personal way. It is about exploring what happens when the individual and collective come together—when one person’s story becomes the story of an entire people. It is about grief and mourning. It is about remembering and honoring the dead. It is about acknowledging and owning the potential perpetrator in all of us. It is about building bridges between cultures. It is about cultural and national identity and self-esteem, for we all have a need to feel positive about the “tribe” to which we belong.

The encounter with Auschwitz brings up collective historical memory and stimulates existential and spiritual questions about our own nature as human beings. It has become the archetypal symbol for evil and our capacity to dehumanize each other.

Together we will embark on a journey of personal transformation and the healing of collective, historical, ancestral and transgenerational trauma. We come to Auschwitz to find the light of hope and meaning, bring healing to our damaged connection with our ancestors and to take steps towards coming to terms with our historical inheritances, as well as our common future.

What will we do while in Auschwitz?

Through a process that includes visits to the death camp, dialogue, personal storytelling, art-making, theatre, meditation, and therapeutic processes, we will break the taboo against speaking to each other, face our inner potential for being both victim and perpetrator and form bonds that reflect our deeply shared experiences.

We will…. 

  • Tour the Auschwitz I Museum.
  • Experience the vastness of Birkenau and commune with what happened in this place.
  • Sit in reflection at the gas chambers, crematoria and the train tracks leading to Birkenau.
  • Take time to move deeply into our grief and mourning as well as exercise self-care and get support.
  • Use art-making and creative expression to give shape to feelings for which there are no words. 
  • Utilize the tools of drama therapy, psychodrama and Playback Theatre to address our therapeutic goals and connect with the “ghosts” of our ancestors that haunt us or give us strength.
  • Be in community and dialogue with others who also have come to search for meaning.

The facilitators will guide participants through an embodied exploration of the following questions:

  • How do we emotionally and spiritually integrate our legacies of perpetration and victimization?
  • How do we prevent the rage, guilt and shame of previous generations from haunting us and our descendants for generations to come?
  • How do we transform our historical wounding into constructive action and inspire acts of creation and acts of service in ourselves and in the societies in which we live?

Drama and the expressive arts can provide a bridge between personal and collective experience, help people master complex feelings, heal deep wounds and put ghosts of history to rest.

No previous theatre or art experience necessary. Shy people are encouraged to attend.

Center for Dialogue in Auschwitz

Friday, June 23 to Thursday, June 29, 2017


Early Bird Fee: $1200
(Incl. Lodging & Meals)
Full Fee: $1500 after Sunday, January 15, 2017
Early Bird Student Fee: $975
(Incl. Lodging & Meals)
Full Student Fee: $1200 after Sunday, January 15, 2017)


For payment by bank transfer in Euros, please contact Anke:

CEUs are available for Psychologists, Marriage, Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors
and Registered Drama Therapists for an additional fee.

Skype or phone interview required

For more information contact:

Armand Volkas, MFT, RDT/BCT
Email: armandvolkas@gmail.com
Phone: +1 (510) 220-5186

Anke Schäfer, MA
Email: info@theatertherapeutin.de
Phone: +49 (0)1741710024

What is Healing the Wounds of History?

Healing the Wounds of History is a process in which psychotherapy, drama and expressive arts therapy methods are used to work with a group of participants who share a common legacy of historical trauma. The process was developed by Armand Volkas, a psychotherapist and drama therapist from Berkeley, California. Volkas is the son of Auschwitz survivors and resistance fighters from World War II.   He was moved by his personal struggle with this legacy of historical trauma to address the issues that arose from it:  issues around identity, victimization and perpetration, meaning and grief. Healing the Wounds of History helps participants work through the burden of such legacies by transforming their pain into constructive action through acts of creation and acts of service.

During this workshop, Armand and Anke will apply the Healing the Wounds of History approach to intercultural conflict transformation, generational and collective trauma, using methods drawn from expressive arts therapy, drama therapy, psychodrama, sociodrama and Playback Theatre.

For more information go to: www.healingthewoundsofhistory.org

“At a certain point in the War, there were so many transports bringing in Jews to Auschwitz that the gas chambers couldn’t kill them fast enough. So, the SS created huge mountains of bodies and burned them for weeks on end. What struck me, wandering around the burning fields in Auschwitz today, was the fact that they were alive with the most beautiful wildflowers that I’d ever seen. I was struck by the way that nature was able to transform such horror into beauty. This spiritual reality motivates my work.”

Armand Volkas in Current Approaches to Drama Therapy

What is Aktion Dialog?

Aktion Dialog is a non-profit organization founded by Anke Schäfer, a film-maker, performance artist, psychotherapist and drama therapist, to support dialogue between groups in conflict using the transformative power of the arts in social action.

“It is as if the images of the horror of the concentration camps have been implanted into my body, bound inexorably with my roots as a German.  These roots are rotten with the rot of what my grandparents perpetrated. To save roots you have to pull them out of the earth and let them breathe.  You have to look at them carefully, before replanting them into the earth to grow, in a place where the plant can get all the light it needs.”

Anke Schäfer

The Facilitators:
Psychotherapists and drama therapists Armand Volkas and Anke Schäfer have co-facilitated multiple workshops bringing together descendants of Holocaust survivors with Germans of the post WWII generations.

armand-photo-150x188Armand Volkas, MFT, RDT/BCT, Psychotherapist, Drama Therapist and Theatre Director

Armand is the Clinical Director of the Living Arts Counseling Center, a psychotherapist and drama therapist in private practice and Associate Professor at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is Director of Healing the Wounds of History and The Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble. Armand has developed innovative programs using theatre and other expressive arts for social change, intercultural conflict transformation and healing generational trauma.

Armand Volkas has received international recognition for his peacebuilding work in bringing groups in conflict together including descendants of Jewish Holocaust survivors and The Third Reich; Turks and Armenians; Turks and Kurds; Palestinians and Israelis; Japanese and Chinese; Japanese and Koreans, Tamil and Singhalese, African-Americans and European-Americans, Kosovar Serbs and Albanians and the factions involved in the Lebanese Civil War. 

Email:  armandvolkas@livingartscenter.org
Phone: (510) 595-5500, Ext 11

Anke headshotAnke Schäfer, Psychotherapist (HP), Registered Drama Therapist (Germany), Artist, Filmmaker

Anke is the director of Aktion Dialog, drama therapist and psychotherapist in private practice and associate professor at the Alanus University in Germany. Anke has developed innovative methods for applying film in therapy and social arts. She has realized film-based drama therapy programs in juvenile prisons and at schools. In the last 25 years, her art works and films were presented  all over the world. For many years, Anke was associate professor at the art department of the University Maastricht in the Netherlands. Since 2014, Schäfer has collaborated with Armand Volkas and his program “Healing the Wounds of History”.

Email: info@theatertherapeutin.de

Phone: +49 (0)1741710024

Armand’s Parents’ Story of Survival, Resistance and Resilience

My father was born in Lithuania. Driven by the anti-Semitism that he experienced and the economic and social injustice he saw around him, he became an activist. In 1936 he joined the International Brigade and went to Spain to fight against Franco, the fascist dictator. At the end of the Spanish Civil War, he returned to see his family, which was to be for the last time. He learned after the war that his entire family had been forced to dig their own graves and were then murdered by the Nazis. In 1942, at the age of 26, he volunteered to parachute behind the lines in White Russia and organize resistance. Of the 12 people who parachuted, he was one of only two who survived the descent from the sky. He was a partisan for a year organizing resistance in the Jewish Ghettos. He was arrested as a Jew and deported to Auschwitz. He survived the initial selections for the gas chambers and was forced into slave labor. He searched for his lover who had fought with him in the resistance and had been deported before him. He learned that she had taken one look around Auschwitz, and had chosen to throw herself against the electrified barbed wire rather than face life in the camp. He joined the underground in Auschwitz and was part of the group that blew up the crematorium. Only three people ever managed to escape from Auschwitz. My father was the one who devised the plan to help two of those people to escape. One got to Moscow and the other to London, but no one believed their reports of unimaginable horrors.

My mother was born in Poland and experienced terrible anti-Semitism in her youth. She left Warsaw and came to Paris in the early 1930’s with her first husband seeking a better life. In 1940, the Nazis marched into Paris. Pregnant with my half brother, she escaped to the South of France to give birth to him. She then returned to occupied France where all Jews were forced to register by the Nazis. Her husband, who had joined the French army, had become a prisoner of War. She joined the French resistance, smuggling guns and leaflets and helping Jewish children escape to Switzerland. She was almost arrested by the collaborationist French police but jumped from a two-story window and escaped. She dyed her hair, changed her name and her identity papers and continued to do her clandestine work. But she knew that her days as a resistance fighter were numbered. She gave my brother, who was then 2 1/2, to a French family in Normandy and, soon after, was arrested by the Nazis and taken to Drancy. She was beaten and tortured to give names of other resistance fighters. My mother was then deported to Auschwitz with a group of women and ended up on the infamous “Block 10” where Dr. Josef Mengele and Dr. Klauber performed sterilization experiments on women like human guinea pigs.

My parents met in Auschwitz concentration camp. My father worked processing the leather goods of the people who had already been gassed. He heard that my mother needed boots. So he smuggled them to her. In the midst of the horror around them, their spirits found the resilience to love.

In the death marches that followed Auschwitz, where inmates were moved from camp to camp, my father, half-dead, ended up in Buchenwald where he was recognized and nurtured back to health by a German political prisoner who had fought with him in Spain. My father was liberated in Buchenwald April 11, 1945 by the American army.

My mother, who had been transferred to many other camps after Auschwitz, escaped into the woods on April 15th, which she considered her liberation day. My mother made her way back to France and found my brother alive. The French family in Normandy she had left him with had hidden my brother and protected him during the War. Her first husband, who had also survived the War, and my mother were reunited. But 5 years and Auschwitz between them proved too much of a chasm and they divorced.

After the War, my father was a man without a family and without a country. He came to Paris looking for my mother, where they met again and chose to reconstruct their lives together. I was born in Paris after the War. Wanting to leave the blood soaked earth of Europe behind them my mother, father, half-brother and I moved to the United States to start a new life.



June 23, 2017
June 29, 2017
Event Category:


Armand Volkas


Center for Dialogue in Auschwitz
1 M. Kolbego St. 32-602
Oświęcim, Poland
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