Yearly Archives: 2012

Eighteen professors, academic professionals, students and community members from SMU, Dallas and across Texas will be traveling through Poland Dec. 19-29 to study the Holocaust. Led by SMU Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, the group will visit cities and death camps where, during World War II, some 4,375,000 people were murdered during the country’s Nazi, Germany, occupation. Professor Halperin also will lead six Texas professors serving as 2012 fellows for the Texas Project for Human Rights Education, and a member of SMU’s News & Communications team, to Berlin, Dec. 16-19, to explore the origins of Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

Exposure

Our group contemplates Belzec in icy, frigid-cold weather. A hooded down coat, three layers of clothing underneath it, a wool hat, two scarves, waterproof gloves, two pairs of socks, rugged wool-lined boots and foot/hand warmers are still not enough insulation as we plod through the snowy (yet thankfully sunny) landscape of Sobibor. There, less than an hour from Ukraine, the former death camp and current Holocaust memorial feels every bit of 4 degrees. The frigid weather is made to order for SMU Embrey Human Rights Director Rick Halperin. He wants us to experience even just a hint of what people at the death camp had to endure 70 years ago. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for people to [...]

2013-01-05T03:00:27+00:00 December 31st, 2012|Human Rights in Poland 2012|

Recipes for Survival

Confiscated cookware is displayed with countless other personal possessions at Auschwitz. One of the most powerful displays at Auschwitz, and one of its most sickening, is a darkened room piled to the ceiling with human hair. Behind an expanse of glass is nearly two tons of it, some of it still in braids — all of it shorn from an estimated 140,000 women killed in the camp's gas chambers. (We also see how the hair was used in industrial-grade carpet and upholstery.) Some in our group leave in tears; others wonder how much more they can take. After being shaken to the core by viewing a manmade mountain of hair, then rafter-high piles of vitally important prosthetic legs, [...]

2013-01-05T01:34:46+00:00 December 30th, 2012|Human Rights in Poland 2012|

Remembrance & Respect

SMU student Genesis Reed lights a candle at the former Nazi extermination camp Belzec, near Lublin, Poland. On an arctic-cold day at the Sobibor death camp memorial near Lublin, SMU student Joey Ottolenghi reads from the Jewish "Kaddish" prayer of mourning.                   At each Holocaust memorial site, one of us lights a candle on behalf of everyone in our group. Afterward, one of several Jewish friends traveling with us reads aloud from the “Kaddish” prayer of mourning as we bow our heads. Such gestures are important not only to us, but also to the people around us (which don't amount to many this time of year). Our guides are especially appreciative. Some [...]

2013-01-19T16:56:13+00:00 December 26th, 2012|Human Rights in Poland 2012|

1942.

During nine months of 1942, more than 500,000 people were brutally murdered at Belzec, a death camp near Lublin, Poland. It's a place very few have heard of, and even fewer visit, as our group did on this snowy, windy Christmas Eve. What stands on the site now is a powerfully designed and curated memorial landscape and museum. Fellow traveler Paul Lake was born on Sept. 12, 1942, to a Jewish family in Philadelphia. It’s difficult for him, and all of us, to realize that had he been born in Warsaw, or anywhere in Nazi-occupied Europe, he likely wouldn’t be alive today. A retired businessman, Paul now volunteers at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. It was there he learned [...]

2012-12-24T22:20:24+00:00 December 24th, 2012|Human Rights in Poland 2012|

Ghosts

In Poland: At Chelmno, Hitler's first death camp, as many as 350,000 people were killed, many in vans that pumped in carbon monoxide from captured Soviet tanks. Sometimes during quiet moments I glimpse a shadowy blur. It’s gone as fast as it’s there. But it’s there. Occasionally what follows is a faint odor I now know well: the smell of death. At nearly every camp we visit, the smell still lingers, even 70 years after it operated as hell on earth, even if there’s a thick blanket of snow on the ground (but especially if there’s not a blanket of snow on the ground.) Am I seeing spirits? Maybe. Perhaps I’m just having sensory hallucinations. Either way, this [...]

2012-12-26T15:22:04+00:00 December 24th, 2012|Human Rights in Poland 2012|

Powerful Doses of Reality

The medical room used for "treating" prisoners at Stuttho, the Nazis' first concentration camp outside of Germany. At snowy Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk, Poland, we huddle in a stark, damp-cold room with low ceilings, a long wooden examining table and large black & white image of syringes. We learn from our guide that medical treatments were conducted here, but ones usually not for saving lives — for taking them. We discuss that the administering of lethal doses of phenol or Zyklon B didn’t start and end with the Nazis. Their genocidal actions to perpetuate the Aryan race were greatly influenced by America’s eugenics movement — the science of human improvement through controlled breeding. “It’s a parallel Americans [...]

2013-01-01T21:24:56+00:00 December 20th, 2012|Human Rights in Poland 2012|

Cruel Beauty

Eighteen professors, academic professionals, students and community members from SMU, Dallas and across Texas will be traveling through Poland Dec. 19-29 to study the Holocaust. Led by SMU Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, the group will visit cities and death camps where, during World War II, some 4,375,000 people were murdered during the country’s Nazi, Germany, occupation. Professor Halperin also will lead six Texas professors serving as 2012 fellows for the Texas Project for Human Rights Education, and a member of SMU’s News & Communications team, to Berlin, Dec. 16-19, to explore the origins of Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

2013-01-22T20:44:22+00:00 December 18th, 2012|Human Rights in Poland 2012|