Human Rights in Poland 2013

Sixteen SMU students, faculty and staffers, along with DFW community members, will be in Poland Dec. 18–30 to visit Holocaust sites. 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.

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Breaking down the statistics

An update from Patricia, a graduate student in Perkins School of Theology:

Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. This is a very well-known and disturbing statistic. I can’t seem to wrap my head around that number of people. As we go to each site, we are told how many known people were killed there. 200,000, 150,000, 800,000, 1,600… the numbers vary but with each site, I see the breakdown of the statistic of 6 million and it makes the experience become very real.

This trip is intense. We spend only two or three days at each hotel, and each day we visit at least two sites or memorials. We leave the hotel at around 8 each morning and return by 7 or so at the earliest. It is also physically demanding as we wear layers of clothing that never quite seem to be enough. We are all exhausted at the end of each day, and with all we see every day, it becomes difficult to process.

I try to put myself in everyone’s shoes. I imagine myself as a Nazi soldier, killing, beating, and torturing innocent men, women, and children. I imagine myself as a person in the villages outside the camps, knowing people were dying just a few miles away. I think of how I would have felt going into a gas van, naked and vulnerable. And just in case that is not enough, I think about how I would have felt as a parent…how my own parents would have felt if we were forced into a gas chamber, knowing there was nothing they could do to stop our inevitable death.

It is a lot to wrap my mind around. I have stood in front of a gas chamber, stood in a cattle car that was used to take prisoners to camps, seen huge mass graves, and it has still been hard to fully comprehend why and how all this happened. I know when I get home, I will take a lot of time to think on and reflect on this experience. For now, I will write down what I can, take lots of pictures, and do the best I can to abolish the statistic and remember each Jew as a person.

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    One Response to Breaking down the statistics

    1. Thomas says:

      Thank you for your post Patricia.
      6 million Jews, and 6 million other “unwanteds”, such as gays and lesbians, Romani, people with disabilities, and political dissidents.
      While NAZI Germany and its allies killed millions of Christians in camps as well, I hope that you will dive into how a society came to support genocide of these different groups, and study both complicity of the various churches, as well as those movements (such as the Confessing Church Bonhoeffer was associated with) who stood against the larger view of the churches in Germany (and Italy, Romania, etc).
      I hope that your work serves to raise awareness to genocide and warfare this century as well.

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