Tour Reflection-Becky Hasselle

Tour Reflection-Becky Hasselle,  Dyersburg Middle School

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Becky Hasselle and Jeff Moorhouse in front of the Janusz Korczak memorial at the Treblinka Death Camp.

The tour helped us all see a complete picture of how vast, widespread, and systematic the Nazi plan for the murder and annihilation of the Jewish people was. We learned about the root of the Holocaust in racist Nazi ideology and saw it’s beginnings in Berlin. We visited the villa of the Wannsee Conference where high ranking Nazis agreed to the “Final Solution,” and Track 17, the train station in an upscale neighborhood Berlin where many German Jews who had to pay their fare were deported to concentration and death camps. We noticed the close proximity of neighborhoods to the camps, retraced the steps the prisoners walked, stepped inside the gas chambers of Auschwitz and imagined how helpless people must have felt in the moments before they were murdered. At Auschwitz we got a glimpse of the scale of it from the rooms of hair, shoes and everyday objects that had belonged to some of the 1.1 million people who were murdered there.

Our guide, David Wanjtraub, was excellent in not only relaying the facts about the atrocities that occurred in the places we visited but he told us memorable personal stories about survivors and those who helped. We learned so much by visiting these places in person that we could not have learned by reading a book or watching a movie. I am very grateful to the Tennessee Holocaust Commission for this opportunity to learn and improve my teaching about the Holocaust.

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We all passed under the infamous “Arbreit Mach Frei” sign at the entrance of Auschwitz concentration camp near Krakow, Poland. The words mean “Work sets you free.”

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We walked through a room filled with shoes of some of the victims murdered at Auschwitz.

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Kim Blevins-Relleva, a teacher at Abintra School in Nashville, looks through the “Book of Names” an 8,000 page memorial to the 6 million Jews murdered at Auschwitz.

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At the memorial for the Treblinka death camp, Danielle Kahane-Kaminsky the Executive Director of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and organizer of the teacher tour, stands near a stone representing the town of Bialystok, where some of her family was from. The stones represent communities from which the 900,000 victims were deported from to Treblinka.

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Our group outside Wawel Castle in Krakow where King Kazimierz lived. This king welcomed Jews to Poland hundreds of years ago.

Tour Reflection-Dan Carpenter

Tour Reflection-Dan Carpenter, Christ Presbyterian Academy

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Dan Carpenter lights a memorial candle at Treblinka placing it in front of the Janusz Korczak memorial stone.

Here are some trip reflections:

I was deeply moved by the trip to Tykocin. The visit to the town felt tragic even before we arrived at the site of the mass grave, because the abandoned Jewish cemetery let us know that the once thriving Jewish community was no longer there. The mass grave site itself was overwhelming – the Israeli flags, the stillness of the forest, and the remote location were all so moving and awful. Walking and standing in the exact place where families were slaughtered made the Holocaust very real to me.

I will never forget the feeling of sadness that we felt at Auschwitz. The camp is massive, so much bigger than I imagined, and every inch is permeated with sadness and the memory of murder. One of the most powerful things at Auschwitz is the mug-shot style photographs of the victims, taken when they arrived. All the photos include the date of arrival and date of death. Seeing the eyes of those people looking out from the photos stays with you – they were all people who had families and friends and plans for their future. Visiting Auschwitz gave me a better understanding of the massive size of the Holocaust.

I know that the trip changed me as a teacher. I have always taught the Holocaust in my classes, but now the subject has a much deeper meaning to me. Being able to describe to my students how it feels to stand in a gas chamber, and to show them pictures of the camps, will completely change how students experience this topic.

Danielle, thank you so much for taking me on the trip. It was truly a trip of a a lifetime, and I will forever be changed as a teacher and a person as a result.

Thanks so much,

Dan

Tour Reflection-Kim Blevins-Relleva

Track 17

Kim Blevins-Relleva at Track 17 in Berlin, Germany.

Kim Blevins-Relleva/Nashville State Community College/Abintra Montessori School
My gratitude for this experience is immense. I’m in awe of Danielle Kahane-Kaminsky’s vision and tireless advocacy to make this thoughtful, well-organized trip a reality, and I am deeply grateful to her, and to the Tennessee Holocaust Commission for making the trip a priority. This trip has profoundly changed my life.

I’ve framed my reflections within each of the USHMM’s Guidelines for Teaching the Holocaust since the experience gave new meaning as to the best practices for presenting this essential history to students.

Define the term “Holocaust.”  The schedule of the trip and the experiences we had sharply defined the Holocaust: we started in Berlin, where the state sponsorship of this event was undeniable. In Poland, we saw the systems that were used to murder the Jews. Visiting the death camp Treblinka, where 900,000 Jews were murdered in 8 months, was overwhelming in the recognition of loss and the reality of how many lives the machinery of death consumed.

Do not teach that the Holocaust was inevitable.  Every step of the trip we saw where people made choices. In Berlin, at Track 17, where the Jews were deported to death camps, we saw how their neighbors and friends chose to look the other way. It was not inevitable. People made choices.

Avoid simple answers to complex questions.  Seeing the vast physical scope of the Holocaust: from the places it was planned in Berlin, to the ghettos and death camps of Poland stresses in a totally different way that there are no easy and pat answers to be found. This realization is pronounced when you travel the space in which that the horror occurred.

Strive for precision of language. Tanya, the expert that Danielle arranged to guide us in Berlin, illustrated this guideline perfectly: the importance of being specific, not vague, and the requirement to avoid sweeping generalities. This also was a consideration when emotionally processing the vast horror of the Holocaust in a totally new way that being in the actual sites presents. You can have emotions, strong ones, but you still must present the history factually to preserve its integrity. Dorota, our guide at Auschwitz, was another example of respectful, but factual and precise language.

Strive for balance in whose perspective informs your study of the Holocaust.  Being in Warsaw, seeing the Jewish cemetery with its mass graves and its neglect, seeing the former Warsaw Ghetto site, just another part of town: this trip recommitted my dedication to telling the story of the Jews over the story of the Third Reich. While that history is, of course, essential, the overwhelming sense of a vanished people and the responsibility to honor their story was made crystal clear.

Avoid comparisons of pain. The trip sharpened the fact that the Holocaust was a singular event. To trace the path of this history is to see its unique dimensions and to avoid comparisons. While all genocides are atrocious, each one has its particulars, the most important being the identity of the victims. The village of Tykocin completely shook me: the illumination of the enormous loss of Jewish culture and life was overwhelming.

Do not romanticize history.  Seeing Auschwitz, being in that space: the air moves through your body in a different way. The reality of what happened is so palatable and real that you fully recognize that to romanticize what happened is to dishonor the victims.

Contextualize the history.  Seeing the places made me realize that without context, for example, the former site of the Plaszow camp would just be another beautiful rolling hill in Poland. In order to present my experiences to my students, I must be able to place every site we visited into a historical context.

Translate statistics into people.  For me, this is the lasting legacy of the trip. When we visited the village of Tykocin and saw the houses of the Jewish residents who were executed on August, 25, 1941—saw their actual houses, still standing, but with new occupants. I heard a baby crying inside one of the houses, and thought of the children never to be born of the Jews of Tykocin. The abandoned cemetery: every old stone a family, a story. This trip made it impossible to view the Holocaust without thinking of the individuals. Our Study Tour Guide, David, also aided in this by sharing countless personal stories of the Holocaust.

A Few More Pictures & Reflections

Wiesel

We began our tour with a walking tour of the Scheunenviertel Neighborhood in Berlin.  Below are some of the highlights:

1Berlin walk

We saw the the Fernsehturm which is a television tower in central Berlin, Germany. Close to Alexanderplatz in Berlin-Mitte, the tower was constructed between 1965 and 1969 by the government of the German Democratic Republic. Walked by the “Missing House.” The Missing House is just an empty space between two buildings, yet we can sense that another building should be standing there. In actual fact it was destroyed by the bombings in February 1945. In 1990 the French artist Christian Boltanski came up with the idea of placing plaques bearing the names of the inhabitants of the missing house on the walls of the existing buildings. Boltanski belongs to the Artists in Action movement which creates conceptual art from simple, everyday objects. In this instance the combination of the names and the empty space serves to remind us of the horrors of war. Walked and examined many of the “stumbling stones” on the sidewalk and visited the Grosse Hamburger Strasse, Jewish Cemetery. To learn more about the “Missing House Memorial” you can view the following YouTube video:                       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIZYD1UAQt8

2Oldest Graveyard Berlin

The Grosse Hamburger Strasse Jewish Cemetery in Berlin.  This is where the grave of  Moses Mendelssohn is located.

3Synagogue

The Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue, re-established in 1998, consists of a small sanctuary on the third floor of the original building’s former front hall. An egalitarian congregation meets here, under the auspices of the Jewish Community of Berlin. 

4Humbolt University

Humboldt University- intellectual home of Einstein, Marx, W.E.B. Du Bois, among many others. It was from the university’s library that some 20,000 books by “degenerates” and opponents of the Nazi regime were taken to be burned on May 10 of 1933 in the Opernplatz (now the Bebelplatz) for a demonstration protected by the SA that also featured a speech by Joseph Goebbels. A monument to this can now be found in the center of the square, consisting of a glass panel opening onto an underground white room with empty shelf space for 20,000 volumes and a plaque, bearing an epigraph from an 1820 work by Heinrich Heine: “This was but a prelude; where they burn books, they ultimately burn people.”

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Images of the Brandenburg Gate, the American Embassy, and the Reichstag Building.
“Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and is today considered not only as a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace.” 

6T4

T4 – Memorial and Information Centre for the Victims of the Nazi Euthanasia Programme is located on the edge of Berlin’s Tiergarten. Planned in the open, the criminal acts of the National Socialists are in plain sight. First, you see a blue glass wall serving as a symbol of entrapment. Information boards convey the horrible details of the euthanasia programme. The information desk also shows videos and sound recordings from that time, which authentically convey the brutality of the crime.

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The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin features an above ground landmark and an underground museum annex. One of the most moving aspects of the museum are exhibits of diaries and letters of persecuted Jews. Berliners struggle with the question of how the site should be treated. Many claim that it is not an appropriate place to “take fun selfies.” Should one picnic here? Should children play? Here is a great website from Frontline that addresses the memorial and these questions: http://www.pbs.org/…/shows/germans/memorial/visit.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Pictures From Our Study Tour…

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe-Berlin

Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Stumbling Stones

Stolpersteine or “stumbling stones” in Berlin which commemorate the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Track 17

Track 17 at Grunewald Station, the site of deportation for the Berlin Jews

On the Bus

On the bus from Berlin to Krakow

Reform Synagogue in Krakow

Reform Synagogue in Krakow

Krakow Square

The Square in Krakow, Poland.

 

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Images from Auschwitz

Walking into Auschwitz

The group locked arms and walked from the Judenramp to  Auschwitz-Birkenau

Bunks

The Women’s Bunks in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Book of names

Gary Taft looking through “The Book of Names” in Auschwitz

Plaszow, Krakow, & Schindler Factory

Plaszow, Krakow, & the Schindler Factory

Plaszkow Memorial

The memorial sculpture at Plaszow, the site of a former Nazi Concentration Camp

Schindler Factory Group Photo

Our group at the Schindler Factory

Polin Museum

Exploring the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw

Kelsey Teacher Quote

Kelsey Cansler’s reflection after visiting the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw

Grosse Hamburger Strasse

We toured the Jewish Cemetery at the Grosse Hamburger Strasse.   “A group of bronze figures originally created for Ravensbruck by the sculptor Will Lammert in 1985, reminds us of the suffering of those murdered and besieged by the Nazis.”

Click on the pictures above to see the captions.

Majdanek

Majdanek- Our guide David’s grandfather helped liberate this camp- there were piles and piles of shoes stolen from murdered people there at that time. The death count estimates were high on account of the numbers of shoes. Majdanek was actually a sorting and distribution center for the surrounding death camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec. Now shoes are symbolic to survivors, shoes meant life or death to the prisoners. David also told us about being with survivor Pinchas Gutter as he retraced his steps through the camp. These touching personal stories and connections made our visit very meaningful and memorable.

Street Paving Stones

Gary Taft and Tom Hopkins try to lift the rollers for leveling roads in Majdanek.  The paving of roads using this equipment was one of the most exhausting kinds of work done at Majdanek.  Many of the male camp prisoners were required to do this work.  David, our guide, explained that the prisoners at Majdanek lived on the equivalent of the calories of a snickers bar daily while performing this type of extreme labor.

Old Lublin

Anita Puckett, Wendy VanDyke, and Becky Hasselle in Old Lublin

Warsaw Balcony Photos

Warsaw Views from Becky Hasselle and Jennifer Underwood’s balcony. Many parties took place on that balcony.  What happens in Warsaw Stays In Warsaw…                                                          #howluckyisthat #warsaw

Heroes Path

Tom Hopkins shares views from the Heroes Path in Warsaw

house tykochin

Today was beyond description. We visited a tiny village, Tykochin, in Poland. On August 25, 1941, the Nazis shot every single Jew in the village. This is the house of a murdered Jewish family. You can see the star of David over the door. Someone lives in this house today. There are no Jews in Tykochin.

Tykochin Synagogue

Photos of the restored Tykochin Synagogue.  Practically the entire population of Jews that lived in Tykochin were massacred here by the Nazis.

Stork Nest

A Stork’s nest (with babies) in the Polish village of Tykochin near an abandoned Jewish cemetery

Tykochin

Photos of the Memorial in the Lopuchowa Forest where the entire population of Jews that lived in Tykochin were massacred by the Nazis.

Forest Photo

There are no Jews left in Tykocin today. The entire population was massacred by the Nazis and buried in three mass graves in the Lopuchowa Forest. Someone had scattered cards with names of victims.

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At Treblinka we lit candles in memory of the approximately 900,000 victims murdered there by the Nazis.

 

Warsaw Ghetto Sites, Tykocin, Lopuchowa Forest, & Warsaw Old Town

“Earth do not cover my blood; may my cry never be laid to rest! “-Job 16:18

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We began our day by visiting several of the Warsaw Ghetto sites.

Ghetto Heroes Monument & Path
The Ghetto Heroes Monument (Polish: pomnik Bohaterów Getta) is a monument in Warsaw, Poland, commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 during the Second World War. It is located in the area which was formerly a part of the Warsaw Ghetto, at the spot where the first armed clash of the uprising took place. The monument was built partly of Nazi German materials originally brought to Warsaw in 1942 by Albert Speer for his planned works. The completed monument was formally unveiled in April 1948.

The monument, sculpted by Nathan Rapoport was unveiled on April 19, 1948. The monument stands 11 meters (36 ft) tall. As Rapoport himself explained, the “wall” of the monument was designed to evoke not just the Ghetto walls, but also the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. The great stones would thus have “framed the memory of events in Warsaw in the iconographic figure of Judaism’s holiest site.” The western part of the monument shows a bronze group sculpture of insurgents – men, women and children, armed with guns and Molotov cocktails. The central standing figure of this frieze is that of Mordechai Anielewicz (1919 – 8 May 1943) who was the leader of Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (English: Jewish Combat Organization), also known as the ŻOB, during the uprising. Below are some images from our walk along the Heroes Path.

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The Jan Karski statue on the Heroes Path

Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Track-Mila 18, Umschagplatz:
The Umschlagplatz (German: collection point or reloading point) was a holding area set up by Nazi Germany adjacent to a railway station in occupied Poland, where the ghettoised Jews were assembled for deportation to death camps during the ghetto liquidation. The largest such collection point consisted of a city square in occupied Warsaw next to the Warsaw Ghetto, used for several months during daily deportations of 254,000 – 265,000 Warsaw Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp. A monument was erected in 1988 on Stawki Street, where the Umschlagplatz was located, to commemorate the deportation victims.

For logistical reasons, the victims awaiting the arrival of Holocaust trains were often kept at the Umschlagplatz overnight during Operation Reinhard, the deadliet phase of the Holocaust in Poland. The same term in the German language is used commonly to denote a place where all goods for rail transport are handled. Below are images of our group at the Umschlagplatz.

Tykocin:
Following our visit to the sites of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising sites, we departed Warsaw and traveled to Tykochin. Tykocin [tɨˈkɔt͡ɕin] Yiddish: ‎טיקטין) is a small town in north-eastern Poland, with 2,010 inhabitants (2012), located on the Narew river. Tykocin has been situated in the Podlaskie Voivodeship since 1999. Previously, it belonged to Białystok Voivodeship (1975-1998). It is one of the oldest settlements in the region. The Jewish population of Tykocin estimated at 2,000 people was eradicated by Nazi Germans during the Holocaust. On 25–26 August 1941 the Jewish residents of Tykocin were assembled at the market square for “relocation”, and then marched and trucked by the Nazis into the nearby Łopuchowo forest, where they were executed in waves into pits by SSEinsatzkommando Zichenau-Schroettersburg under SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Schaper. A memorial now exists outside the city for the Tykocin pogrom. We walked through the town and visited the Tykocin cemetery which is all that remains of the Jewish community.

Tykocin cemetery which is all that remains of the Jewish community.

Tykocin Synagogue :
The Tykocin Synagogue is an historic synagogue building in Tykocin, Poland. The synagogue, in mannerist-early Baroque style, was built in 1642. The synagogue was thoroughly restored in the late 1970s. The historic wall paintings, most of which are decorative texts of Hebrew prayers, were restored. The elaborate, decorative ceiling was not reconstructed although some idea of the style can be gleaned from the design of the Torah Ark. A former Beit Medrash (study and prayer hall) located across the street has been restored and is in use as a city museum. Although no Jews now live in Tykocin and the town has no other tourist attractions, 40,000 tourists a year come to see the old synagogue, which towers over the remote village “in lonely and unexpected splendor.

IMG_1305Outside the synagogue in Tykochin we met a lovely man carving wooden figurines. His English was limited but I asked if I could take a picture with him and he said “selfie!”

Lopuchowa Forest:

Our bus then drove us on the route from the town to the nearby forest of   Lopuchowa where almost all Jewish inhabitants of Tykocin were shot by on 25th August 1941.

Reflections:

Jeff Moorhouse- “When you do something horrible you can’t keep it hidden forever.”

Terri Tims-” This is the place I could relate to the most. This is the type of place my family comes from. I found it hard to leave.”

Treblinka:
Treblinka (pronounced [trɛˈblʲinka]) was an extermination camp, built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. It was located in a forest north-east of Warsaw, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) south of the Treblinka train stationin what is now the Masovian Voivodeship. The camp operated between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 as part of Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Final Solution. During this time, it is estimated that between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews were killed in its gas chambers, along with 2,000 Romani people. More Jews were killed at Treblinka than at any other Nazi extermination camp apart from Auschwitz.

Warsaw Old Town:
Here we are at the end of this incredible journey at Sanlorenzo Italian restaurant in Warsaw Old Town. The Old Town is the oldest part of the capital city. It is bordered by the Wybrzeże Gdańskie, along with the bank of Vistula river, Grodzka, Mostowa and Podwale Streets. It is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Warsaw.

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We depart for the airport at 3:30am and can’t wait to share all of our photographs and stories with you back in Tennessee.

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Majdanek and Old Lublin

“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices ” Jimmy Carter

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Majdanek camp. This dome covers ashes of the victims.

 

We began our day today with a visit to the State Museum at Majdanek and a meeting with the Head of the Education Department. She explained to us the philosophy of education at the museum is the “pedagogy of remembrance.” We learned about two famous survivors of Majdanek Halina Birenbaum and Pincas Gutter. We viewed a film of Pincas’s testimony and retraced his footsteps through the camp. The camp was located three miles east southeast of Lublin on the road that led to Chelm.
On a visit to Lublin on July 20-21, 1941, four weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union, SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the SS and Police Leader for District Lublin, SS Major General Odilo Globocnik, to establish a large concentration camp in Lublin with the capacity to hold up to 50,000 prisoners.

IMG_1079Our guide, David’s, grandfather helped liberate this camp- there were piles and piles of shoes stolen from murdered people there at that time. The death count estimates were high on account of the numbers of shoes. Majdanek was actually a sorting and distribution center for the surrounding death camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec. Now shoes are symbolic to survivors, shoes meant life or death to the prisoners. David also told us about being with survivor Pinchas Gutter as he retraced his steps through the camp. These touching personal stories and connections made our visit very meaningful and memorable.

About Majdanek:
The purpose of the camp was to provide forced laborers to work on construction projects for proposed SS and police bases throughout eastern Poland and the occupied Soviet Union. These facilities were intended to be militarized and industrialized agricultural complexes around which permanent German settlements in eastern Europe would grow and expand, after the Germans physically annihilated Jews and members of the Polish and Soviet leadership elites. Prisoners at Majdanek were to provide labor for the establishment of the initial SS and police base in Lublin. Since Polish workers, due to forced deportations to the Reich to meet labor needs there, had already become scarce, Himmler and Globocnik planned to incarcerate Jewish forced laborers in Majdanek. Majdanek was unique among concentration camps in that Globocnik, as regional SS and police leader, exercised unusually close control over the operations of the camp—particularly within the framework of “Operation Reinhard,” until his departure from Lublin in September 1943. “Operation Reinhard,” implemented under Globocnik’s supervision between October 1941 and November 1943, had four goals:
1) the physical annihilation of the Jews residing in the general government  
2) the exploitation of some Jews selected to survive temporarily as forced laborers; 
3) the seizure, evaluation, and recycling of clothing, personal property, valuables, and currency taken from the murdered Jews at the killing centers; and 
4) the identification of so-called hidden assets of the Jews in the general government.
Within the framework of Operation Reinhard, Majdanek primarily served to concentrate Jews whom the Germans spared temporarily for forced labor. It occasionally functioned as a killing site to murder victims who could not be killed at the Operation Reinhard killing centers: Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka II. It also contained a storage depot for property and valuables taken from the Jewish victims at the killing centers. Like other concentration camps in the Reich, Majdanek also served as a killing site for targeted groups of individuals, including members of the Polish resistance, hostages taken from the Security Police prison in Lublin, and prisoners in the camp itself who were deemed no longer capable of work.
From October 1941 until August 1942, Majdanek was commanded by SS Colonel Karl Koch. After Koch’s arrest for corruption, SS Major Max Koegel was commandant until November 1942, when he was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Hermann Florstedt, who himself was arrested on suspicion of corruption in late October 1943. SS Lieutenant Colonel Martin Weiss commanded Majdanek from November 1, 1943, until May 5, 1944. SS Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Liebehenschel then oversaw the camp until the Germans abandoned it in late July. Though originally planned for the incarceration of 50,000 prisoners, it never held that many concentration camp prisoners at one time. Majdanek was eventually divided into six compounds. In the fall of 1943, Compound I was a women’s camp; Compound II was a field hospital for Russian collaborators attached to the German army; Compound III was a men’s camp for Polish political prisoners, as well as Jews from Warsaw and Bialystok; Compound IV was a camp for men, mainly Soviet prisoners of war, civilian hostages, and political prisoners; Compound V served as a men’s hospital camp; and Compound VI, a largely undeveloped compound, was intended for additional barracks, crematoria, gas chambers, and factories. The Germans did not complete construction of this last compound before the camp was liberated.

Old Lublin:

Following Majdanek, we spent a few hours in Lublin Old Town which is one of the most precious Polish complexes of historic buildings. The Crown Tribunal and the 14th-century Kraków Gate leading from the Old Town to the city center are commonly considered symbols of the city. The district is one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments (Pomnik historii), as designated May 16, 2007, and tracked by the National Heritage Board of Poland.

Tomorrow morning we depart for a visit to Tykochin and Treblinka.

En Route And Arrival In Warsaw

 

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Janus Korczak

We left bright and early this morning for Warsaw. After driving about 90 kilometers, we passed the site of the Kielce Pogrom. This was known as the deadliest pogrom against Polish Jews after the Second World War, the incident was a significant point in the post-war history of Jews in Poland. It took place only a year after the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust, shocking Jews in Poland, Poles, and the international community. It has been considered a catalyst for the flight from Poland of most remaining Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust. The Kielce Massacre  was an outbreak of violence against the Jewish community centre’s gathering of refugees in the city of Kielce, Poland on 4 July 1946 by Polish soldiers, police officers, and civilians which resulted in the killing of 42 Jews and over 40 were wounded. Polish courts later tried and executed nine of the attackers in connection with the incident.

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The townspeople placed the tombstones that endured the bombing in a sort of pyramid, with each level ascending containing less tombstones than the previous level. Even though not everyone’s epitaph is represented, the idea is to express that anyone whose final resting place is in this cemetery is honored and represented collectively.

Gensha Cemetery:
Our first stop in Warsaw was the Gensha Cemetery, located inside of the ghetto territory. The memorial is designed as a celebration of life and a commemoration for those lost in the holocaust. The cemetery is one that cannot be explained with mere words. We were all very moved at the Gensha Cemetery, where hundreds of thousands of Jewish people are buried. Where the monument to Janusz Korczak stands it is an enormous iron statue of Korczak with an infant wrapped around his neck and children trailing behind. Janus Korczak, Warsaw-born Jew, put himself on the line for the children affected by the Holocaust. He opened an orphanage for children of the Holocaust, volunteered in summer camps for underprivileged children, and organized reading sessions in public libraries in poor neighborhoods. Unfortunately, this remarkable man, along with 200 orphans, fell victim to Hitler’s Final Solution.

Above are images of our visit to the Gensha Cemetery.

Our guide, David,  arranged for us to have lunch and some shopping time in Old Town Warsaw.

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Here we are standing in the center of the square in front of  The Mermaid of Warsaw (Polish: Syrenka Warszawska) This statue is a symbol of Warsaw, represented on the city’s coat of arms and well as in a number of statues and other imagery.

Warsaw Uprising Monument:

Following our visit to Old Town we walked to view the Warsaw Uprising Monument. The Warsaw Uprising Monument is a monument in Warsaw, Poland, dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Unveiled in 1989, it was sculpted by Wincenty Kućma and the architect was Jacek Budyn. It is located on the southern side of Krasiński Square.

Above are images of the monument.

We ended our site seeing at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. It is a museum on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The Hebrew word Polin in the museum’s name means, in English, either “Poland” or “rest here” and is related to a legend on the arrival of the first Jews in Poland.The cornerstone was laid in 2007, and the museum was first opened on April 19, 2013.The museum’s Core Exhibition opened in October 2014.The museum features a multimedia narrative exhibition about the living Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years up to the Holocaust.The building, a postmodern structure in glass, copper, and concrete, was designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäkiand Ilmari Lahdelma.

Above are images from our visit.

Below are some of our group’s  reflections.

Group Reflections:
“Never forget, but also never forget to act against injustice everywhere. That was the message I took away today. It is not enough for us to rely on our governments to do the right thing. We must be informed and take action for those who are suffering injustice today, or all the memorials are useless.”-Terri Tims, Bolivar Central High School

“We are here to learn about the Holocaust and see where the crimes and murders were committed but we are also becoming closer, old and new friends alike, supporting each other, sharing thoughts, interpretations and teaching ideas. The Holocaust is so incomprehensible- our guide, David,  said the more he learns about it the less he understands. I know what he means, the murder of so many was so widespread and systematic, it’s hard to fathom how it could have been implemented. But it did and it’s our obligation to teach students about it so future generations know and this history is remembered”-Becky Hasselle, Dyersburg Middle School

“This trip sharpens the fact that the Holocaust is a singular event. To trace the path of this history is to see its unique dimensions and to avoid comparisons. While all genocides are atrocious, each one has its particulars, the most important being the identity of the victims. the mass graves at the Warsaw Jewish cemetery completely shook me and along with the other places, illuminates the enormous loss of Jewish culture and life” Kim Blevins-Relleva, Abintra Montessori School

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Touring Krakow

 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”-Mark Twain

We began our weekend with a festive Shabbat dinner in the Old Jewish Quarter of Krakow:

IMG_0853.JPGOur day began with a tour of the Galicia Museum which documents the remnants of Jewish culture and life in Polish Galicia.

David then took us to the Wawel Castle which is a castle residency located in central Kraków, Poland. Built at the behest of King Casimir III the Great, it consists of a number of structures situated around the Italian-styled main courtyard. The castle, is one of the largest in Poland, represents nearly all European architectural styles of medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill constitute the most historically and culturally significant site in the country. In 1978 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Centre of Kraków. Additionally, it served as the residence of Hans Frank who ran the General Government established by the Nazis in eastern Poland.

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Our group of teachers on the tour outside Wawel Castle, where King Kazimierz lived. This king welcomed Jews into Poland hundreds of years ago. So grateful to the TN Holocaust Commission for this amazing experience! #krakow — at Old Town, Cracow.

The group then sampled the original bagel first created in Krakow. We had lunch in the Old Town district and did a little shopping.

After lunch, we drove to Bernatka Bridge from Kazimierz to Podgorzen And walked to Podgorze, the former Jewish Ghetto, Where two memorials to the Jewish people who were forced to move here during the Holocaust are located. The first is called Ghetto Hero’s Square, or Plac Bohaterów Getta in Polish. It is a square filled with sculptures of empty chairs, symbolic of the furniture the Jews had to carry with them from their homes to the ghetto. And nearby you can find the only remaining piece of the wall built around the ghetto,  the shape of the top resembles gravestones, foreshadowing the future of the members of this community, as they waited in the ghettos to be sent to extermination camps. We also toured the Under the Eagle Pharmacy, the only gentile business the Nazis allowed to continue operating in the Jewish ghetto, the pharmacy had served both gentile Poles and Jews before the war. Its owner, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, began running the business in 1933, and persuaded the Germans to let it remain open, despite an order relocate to the non-Jewish part of the city. He is credited with helping many Jews in the Krakow Ghetto.

We then stopped in front of Oskar Schindler’s factory.

Oskar Schindler saved the lives of 1200 Jews. He received Israel’s honor of Righteous Among The Nations which goes to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

We then drove past the only remaining piece of the wall built around the ghetto, the shape of the top resembles gravestones, foreshadowing the future of the members of this community, as they waited in the ghettos to be sent to extermination camps.

We ended our day at Plaszow, the site of a former Nazi concentration camp.

We depart for Warsaw tomorrow morning.

Reflections From Auschwitz-Birkenau

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We locked arms and walked in silence from the train area to the camp- very emotional

A difficult but meaningful day. Below are some thoughts and reflections from our group:

Becky Hasselle, Dyersburg Middle School, shares the pictures below and quote from Isaiah that is within an exhibit at Auschwitz:

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“I built for them within my walls a monument for their names so we won’t forget.” — at Auschwitz Memorial / Muzeum Auschwitz.

Tom Hopkins from TNT Primary school in Claiborne county says “Today was really hard …” his photos and reflections are below:

Wendy VanDyke from Fayetteville Academy in Bolivar, TN was moved by the experience today, “So surreal….this day is hard.” #LoveThyNeighbor #TNHolocaustCommission

Sandra Boyer from Memphis Central High School shares her thoughts in the caption below:

Sandra writes:
“We locked arms and walked in silence from the train area to the camp- very emotional at Aushwitz – Birkenau concentration camp.”

Kim Gregory from Davidson Academy in Nashville writes, “Auschwitz I was our morning tour, and it was enlightening, horrifying, and unbelievably sad that such cruelty and hatred was so efficiently institutionalized.”