Human Rights in Poland 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.”

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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 much is certain: I’ll be haunted by what I’ve been witnessing.

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