Human Rights in Baltics

During Spring Break 2010, students, faculty and staff are visiting World War II sites in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, including the Bikernieki Memorial, where 40,000 Jews were slain; the Jewish Museum in Riga; and the Jungfernhof concentration camp. Rick Halperin, director of the Human Rights Education Program in Dedman College, is leading the group.

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One Holocaust survivor’s story

An update from Adele, a senior sociology major with minors in history and human rights:

I cannot believe that today is our last day in the Baltic region. We began the day with a tour of Vilnius, which is so gorgeous. We saw the big and small ghettos and a great deal of other sites around the city.

More importantly, we had the opportunity to meet with a Jewish Holocaust survivor named Tobijus, and he told us his story. The war began when he was about 10 years old and away at summer camp. When the Germans came, they immediately rounded up the Jews. He was kept with other Jewish children and women for several days before he ran away to meet his mother at home in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Eventually, he and his mother were forced to move to the ghetto along with all the other Jews, and they remained there for three years. When it became clear that the Nazis were getting ready to exterminate them, Tobijus’ mother ordered him to run away. He managed to slip through the barbed wire and meet up with some Lithuanian relatives.

His mother tried to get out too. She bribed the guards with all of her possessions. They accepted the bribe and allowed her to leave but shot her in the back as she was walking away. Tobijus was extremely fortunate to survive the Holocaust. Talking to Tobijus made the trip, and the history we’ve had to face, just that much more real.

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