Human Rights, Poland 2011

During winter break 2011, SMU students and professors and Dallas community members are traveling to Poland with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program. The group will visit Holocaust sites to pay tribute and bear witness to those who perished and survived.

Included in the group are six professors traveling on behalf of the Boone Family Foundation’s Texas Project for Human Rights Education grant. They are: SMU’s Perkins School of Theology Professor Sze-kar Wan, Dedman College Psychology Professor George W. Holden and Cox School of Business Assistant Professor Robert W. Rasberry, along with TCU Associate Professor of Social Work Harriet L. Cohen, South Texas College of Law Associate Professor Katerina Lewinbuk and University of North Texas Assistant Professor of Political Science Jacqueline H.R. DeMeritt. Also with the group is Alice Murray, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, so stay tuned in.

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Keeping the memories alive

An update from Alice Murray, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance: 

If you’ve been following any of the entries from the trip to Poland 2011 with Professor Halperin’s group, you’ve seen a lot of reactions to the many Death Camps and Pogrom sites and Concentration Camps that we’ve been visiting since December 18. Yes, we’ve gone straight through Christmas, and during the coldest part of the year. We’ve had the opportunity to feel intense emotions and intense physical sensations - and we’ve felt them all.

The awe-inspiring memorial at Belzec death camp, where 600,000 Jews perished.

Every night we take time to regroup and reflect on the experiences of the day, and each meeting unveils an almost chaotic mix of emotions and perceptions. I know mine have been. Each of us comes with a different set of biases, and mine happen to derive from my position at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. I have been blessed to interact with many survivors of the Holocaust, and I have their stories running through my head at almost every camp site and memorial. Their stories become vividly alive and real to me, which makes the horrific acts of torture, starvation, humiliation and loss even more frightening and devastatingly sad.

The beauty of this memorial at Treblinka defies the reality of 800,000 Jews being murdered there.

This experience also challenges me to consider the absolute best means to convey the story of the Holocaust in a museum venue so that visitors are inspired to keep these memories alive. When I saw the incredible memorials in Treblinka and at Belzec, I was awed by their beauty and touched by the effort to keep their memories vividly alive. The museum attached to the Belzec memorial touched me so deeply; I wept uncontrollably at the sight of the photographs of families that perished. A museum should touch, inspire and teach people. The experiences of this trip will be of immeasurable help during the upcoming design of a new Holocaust Museum for Dallas that does all of those things.

Tomorrow we head to Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp, the 11th site in 10 days. We’ve covered hundreds (perhaps thousands) of miles in those days. We haven’t really been focused on tracking miles, but we do track the lives lost – and it’s in the millions. Our miles don’t seem many when measured against the lives lost.

Thank you for showing an interest in our trip - every person touched by the Holocaust is another step in keeping the memory alive, so that it will never happen again. History that moves us forward.

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