Sherry Aikman

New book on Holocaust Poland commemorates 10th anniversary of SMU human rights program

'No Resting Place' book coverBearing witness to Poland’s deep physical and emotional scars that linger long after World War II – when the Nazis made the country the epicenter of the Holocaust – is the focus of a new book by SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.

No Resting Place: Holocaust Poland (Terrace Partners, $39.95) combines more than 200 contemporary photos of occupied Poland’s deadliest Holocaust sites with historical vignettes and poignant observations from those who have experienced one of the most comprehensive, longest-running Shoah study trips offered by a U.S. university.

> Read a preview of No Resting Place: Holocaust Poland

Each December, the two-week “Holocaust Poland” trip – led for more than 20 years by SMU Prof. Rick Halperin – exposes students and lifelong learners to the Third Reich’s genocidal “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” Both the trip and book are meant to ensure historical remembrance and “history as warning,” says history professor and co-author Halperin. “In our increasingly polarized world, where hate crimes against Jews and Muslims are on the rise, the need for tolerance and understanding has never been greater.”

Dallas philanthropist and SMU alumna Lauren Embrey (’80, ’06) couldn’t agree more. Embrey’s life would be profoundly changed by the 2005 “Holocaust Poland” pilgrimage she took while pursuing a Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) degree at SMU. In 2006, Lauren, her sister Gayle, and their Embrey Family Foundation funded the pioneering Embrey Human Rights Program, led by Halperin, within SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. In 2012, enthusiasm for the program allowed SMU to go from offering a human rights minor and MLS concentration in human rights and social justice to providing a Bachelor of Arts degree in the field, making SMU one of only five U.S. universities to do so. (Since then, two others have followed suit.)

Since Halperin began leading SMU study trips to Poland in 1996, the number of participants has grown from a handful to more than three dozen who went on the 20th anniversary pilgrimage in 2016 (including two dozen students able to travel thanks to a gift from SMU alumnus Mike Disque ’64 and his wife, Cherri). To commemorate the program’s 10th anniversary and trip’s second decade, Halperin teamed up with SMU colleagues Sherry Aikman and Denise Gee to create No Resting Place.

The trio’s primary objective was to produce a book sensitively depicting “the last places ever seen by millions of innocent people who didn’t want to die in such horrific places,” Halperin says. “And unlike most other Holocaust books we wanted this one to be produced in color – because the Holocaust happened in color.”

— Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story from SMU News

SMU Rwanda travelers seek school supplies for August 2012 trip

UPDATE Aug. 2, 2012: Thanks to donations from the SMU community and friends, the Embrey Human Rights Program travelers will leave for Rwanda tomorrow with 12 suitcases filled with 200 pounds of school supplies and 250 pounds of books (from Half-Price Books) to share with children at the Urukundo Home for Children.

Former SMU student (now alumna) Astrud Villareal helps with a construction project at the Urukundo Home for Children during a Embrey Human Rights Program trip to Rwanda in 2009. Photo by Sherry Aikman.

Twenty SMU students and staffers will be in Rwanda Aug. 3-13, 2012, on a two-fold mission: Not only to see how the African country is recovering from its 1994 civil war — in which up to a million people were killed in 100 days — but also to share educational and medical supplies with Rwandan youth.

The Embrey Human Rights Program travel group is still seeking such school supplies as pencils and pens, slim notebooks, small tape dispensers, slim packages of paper, and “anything portable,” says program coordinator Sherry Aikman.

Donated items will be accepted at 109 Clements Hall until Wednesday, Aug. 1.

The travel group will take extra suitcases loaded with school supplies as well as seven boxes of books for children and young adults given to them by Half Price Books. They also will have medical supplies donated in part by Project C.U.R.E., a Denver-based service group for which SMU student Hayley Wagner is a summer intern.

Wagner, who recently traveled to Rwanda on the Student Leadership Initiative trip led by Embrey Human Rights Program Associate Director Pat Davis, helped the Embrey program purchase $2,000 worth of medical supplies for $200. The kits will be given to the Urukundo Home for Children.

This is the third year the Embrey Human Rights Program has sponsored the Rwanda trip, which will have the group visiting schools, orphanages and genocide sites to meet with survivors.

“We’ll be interacting not only with the issues of genocide, which are so visually present throughout the country, but also with the people and organizations working for a better Rwanda,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, who is leading the trip.

For more information visit smu.edu/humanrights or call Aikman at 214-768-8347.

— Denise Gee