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 that “by the end of 1942, 80 percent of the 6 million Jews who hadn’t been killed yet were killed,” he says. “That has always stuck with me.” So has a deep desire to understand how and why the Holocaust happened.

“There was more bloodletting in 1942 than in any other year of the war,” Dr. Halperin tells us. “That year was the nadir of the Holocaust, when the Nazi killing regime was in full operational throttle. Killing camps and daily mass murder were in effect in every corner of Poland in particular, and throughout Nazi-dominated Europe in general.”

Sadly, Adolf Hitler’s work was made easier by anti-Semitism, which reached as far as America. “Anti-Semitism was rampant then, and had been since the Crusades,” Paul says. “And it hasn’t ended.”

As he works to learn more about the Holocaust, he also tries to enlighten others, especially children. “So many of them come into the museum and don’t know anything about it. Or they’ve never heard the word, ‘Aryan,’ ” he says. “If I can make even just one of them understand what really happened and why, I’ve really done something.”