August 7, 2015:
In May, I spent 10 days in Poland, visiting Wrocław (where Albion College and Michigan State students, faculty, and staff cleaned a section of the New Jewish Cemetery), Kraków (where we toured the Jewish Quarter, Schindler’s Factory, and the Płaszów Concentration Camp), and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Death Camp (which really needs no explanation). The trip is part of the Holocaust Studies Program
at Albion College
and has been an option for students since before 2001.
It’s still difficult for me to put into words my thoughts and feelings about this trip to Poland. Perhaps after I’ve had more time to sort through my photos and reflect on the words of Jan Gross, Elie Wiesel, and Anne Frank and others, it will be easier, but for now…
The trip was emotionally and physically tiring, but I’m inspired by the actions of the current generation of students and others who are making amends for the actions of those who caused such terror in such a short period of time.
Working in the New Jewish Cemetery (Wroclaw, Poland), to restore it to pre-World War II beauty.
I’m thankful for the stories from members of our group, the tour guides, and others with whom we interacted who put faces to the members of many different populations of Europeans affected by the events of World War II.
With our tour guide, Margaret, at the Birkenau Concentration and Death Camp (Auschwitz, Poland).
Freight car that transported Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The plaque reads: “The freight car has been placed here to commemorate the Jews deported from Hungary who were murdered by German Nazis in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. More than 400,000 Jewish men, women and children were deported from Hungary in similar cars,in more than 100 transports during the spring andsummer of 1944. On arrival, most of them were murdered in the gas chambers here.”
I’m thankful that my own family connections to World War II, while sad in their own right, weren’t nearly as horrific as those of others. My mother’s mother and uncle worked for the Dutch Resistance, while my father’s German family suffered from lack of food. Both sides suffered losses, too. My mother’s father was killed near the end of World War II; the location of his death is undetermined and his body was never found. Members of my father’s family died in combat.
I’m hopeful that we, as a whole humanity, will continue to apply those lessons learned and act with tolerance, in all of our lives.
#handson Albion College, at “our” plaque, erected in 2001, at Schindler’s Factory in Krakow, Poland.
For more details about the trip, please visit the HSSLP blog.
To learn more about the Dutch Resistance, in the words of a Michigan resident, read Diet Eman’s autobiography.