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.

Seeking understanding at Chelmno

An update from Jazmin, a senior majoring in human rights and Spanish:

CONCENTRATION CAMP: CHELMNO
GEOGRAPHICAL AREA: NEAR WARSAW
DEATHS: 250,000

“If only my head was filled with water and my eyes were a fountain of tears, then I would weep by day and night over the destruction of the flower of my people.” – Jeremiah

History

Camp Chelmno began functioning as early as December 1941. Rolf Hoppner greatly influenced the construction of this camp as he had a proposal for “solving the Jewish problem.” The way prisoners were sent to their deaths was a gruesome process. At initial arrival, prisoners were told that they needed to take off their clothing because they needed to first be disinfected in order to go to the camp to work. Prisoners would surrender their clothing and were made to believe that they were going to take a shower. After, the hostages were then loaded into automobiles to be transported to the site where they would “work.” However, this did not happen.

Officials would start the motors, and exhaust fumes would enter the truck while it was driven to the Rzuchowski Forest, which was 4 kilometers from Chelmno. During this short drive, all the prisoners inside the truck died. What inmates believed to be their home and workplace for the next several weeks/months, in reality became a drive to their deaths.

My Reflection

“We dream of a better life with truth and justice a life that is not but will some day be… ”
“My aim is to love and be righteous instead of being loved and adored…”

It is difficult for me to process the ruthlessness of a camp when I first arrive. My emotional state of mind is overpowered with shock as I simply cannot break down the contents to reality. In class, when I would read about the Nazi concentration camps such as Chelmno, I thought I understood the suffering of the lives of the many victims who were murdered and viciously put to work. Little did I know that I was nowhere near understanding the brutality they endured.

Let’s put in perspective our own lives when we think of the Holocaust. For example, imagine that one day as you are coming home from work, you see that there are Nazi soldiers at your house. Thinking to yourself, you know that the picture before your eyes is an event from which no good can come. You quickly run inside to find that the Nazi officials have already arrested your mother, father, brother, sister, child, or any other friend or family member inside and are being brutally hit to evoke fear and power. How do you confront this? Do you fight to liberate them and die trying? Or do you join them by surrendering and suffering in the months to come… if you are even given the opportunity?

Even after researching and studying the many events that took place during the Holocaust, I do not believe that we can ever grasp the whole entity of the misery that took place during WWII. When I was at camp Chelmno, I kneeled down to feel the earth. The evening was cold, windy, and quiet. I reflected upon the commemorations and stone readings, all of which made me cry, but one in particular caught my eye. The stone read, “In memory of my father, Rachmil Strazynski, who mourned them [his wife and children] the rest of his life.” When I read this, I felt a hole being blown through my body. You can never quite experience the pain so vividly as when you are present in front of the event. When I read this, I imagined a family in the past, much like mine, who ate dinner together, shared memories, and grew to make one another a better person. How did hate end the happiness of not only one family, but hundreds of thousands of families? No longer could they eat together, nor tell each other how much they loved one another.

I was truly angered, but I wasn’t quite sure at who or what. I didn’t know who to direct my anger toward; I was mad at myself for being so ungrateful with my family, I was mad at the government and state for limiting my education of the Holocaust, and I was mad because thousands of lives were taken ruthlessly over a 5-6 year period before anything was done to help. Who in their right mind murders families on a 5- to 10-minute automobile ride? Better yet – willingly?

At the end, I could only discuss my options with my classmates. Though they were as confused as I was, we still managed to understand that we were on this trip for awareness and a better education in hopes of making the world a better place. It is moments of enlightenment such as these that make me work harder to help humanity.

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Christmas Day at Majdanek

An update from Kelly:

So we are leaving in less than two days and I haven’t managed to write a single blog yet. My goal was to do one every day, but this trip is all so overwhelming that I am having a difficult time turning thoughts into words. Instead of writing about a specific site, I have decided to reflect on a few of the best (or worst) experiences on this trip.

The first few days in Poland were emotionally “light,” but as each day passed, it became increasingly difficult to take everything in. As Dr. Halperin has said, “This isn’t if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” Each camp is associated with some of the worst crimes against humanity, but they each have a different story dealing with different human beings.

The first thing we saw when we arrived at Stutthof on day one was a room full of shoes. Most people seem to understand the significance of the shoes during the Holocaust, or have at least seen photos of them when learning about the Holocaust. You think “wow, how sad, that looks like a lot of shoes”…and then you visit another camp, and there are even more shoes…and another, with more shoes. You begin to realize that you are looking at hundreds and thousands of pairs of shoes in different places, and the numbers become overwhelming. Like the shoes, the weight of what we have been dealing with each day has built up, and it’s almost beyond comprehension.

Shoes at Stutthof

Shoes at Stutthof

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800,000 pairs of shoes at Majdanek

Because the enormity of the Holocaust can be difficult to grasp, putting a face to it seems to help. For me, the face has been my 5-year-old nephew, Isiah. While the actual concentration camps have been difficult to walk through, it is the memorials for children that really hurt my heart. In Lodz, we visited a memorial dedicated to all the children who had been deported to and killed at various camps. It’s a large, almost heart-shaped statue with an emaciated Holocaust victim carved out of the middle. Next to the human shape is a hole.

During our visit to the memorial a couple of young children were running around the statue playing hide-and-go-seek through the hole in the middle. This is where my first real connection to this trip happened. The children playing were laughing and having a good time, so innocent and unaware of what exactly it was they were peeking through. It reminded me of my baby nephew and I had to stop and try to put myself in the shoes of all of the people who loved and cared for the children who were murdered. I can’t imagine what the pain of everyone attached to Isiah, and the fear he would experience, would be like. It hurts me to think of it that way, but it’s the only way to “put myself in their shoes.”

 Lodz Children’s Memorial

Lodz Children’s Memorial

In the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery there is another, smaller memorial for children. This one was created in commemoration of all of the children who died in the ghetto. It is not as “in your face” as the Lodz memorial, but just standing in front of it gave me chills. Again, I thought about my nephew and was instantly moved by what I saw. I stood at this memorial for a long time, trying to understand how anyone could deliberately hurt a child with no remorse. I think of all of the lives lost, destroyed by loss, and try to imagine the fear these children experienced in the last moments of their lives.

Warsaw Jewish Cemetery Memorial for Children of the Ghetto

Warsaw Jewish Cemetery Memorial for Children of the Ghetto

Although there is so much more to say, I will finish this entry with Christmas day at Majdanek. As we loaded up the bus to leave that morning, it seemed like most of the group had a heavy heart. By this point in time we had covered the territory of more than 1 million deaths and were missing a special day normally spent with family and friends. At Majdanek, we walked through a gas chamber with walls painted blue from the use of Zyklon B, were able to touch the rotting shoes of 800,000 people, and witness what 18,000 people can be reduced to in ashes and bones. This was the heaviest of all sites, and I am not sure how to express my thoughts yet. All I know is that I could have stared at the mound of ashes all day. The ashes are held in a large pit, but still exposed to wind. Instead of opening presents with my family on Christmas day, I stood over the destroyed bodies of thousands of people, breathing in their ashes as the wind blew. An experience I will never be able to forget.

Gas Chamber at Majdanek

Gas Chamber at Majdanek

Ash and bone fragments of Holocaust victims at Majdanek

Ash and bone fragments of Holocaust victims at Majdanek

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Terror at Belzec

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

On Christmas Eve, we went to Belzec extermination camp, where in the course of 9 months, a typical course of time for one child to form, grow, and be born from a mother’s womb, over 650,000 people were murdered in a gas chamber from carbon monoxide. There are only two survivors from the 9-month period. All of these innocent people were sent to death, simply because they were Jews.

At the museum portion of the site, there is a room about the size of a gas chamber. It is empty and only has three or four lights. We were told by Dr. Halperin to go in alone. As I walked into the room, I heard the door slam loudly behind me. It took all I had to walk just a few yards in. I tried twice to go all the way to the back of the room. I began to get very scared, though, and did not have the courage to go all the way in. I suddenly realized how alone I was, and how big this room was. I quickly walked back to the door. Due to the acoustics of the room, the faster I walked, the louder it became…it almost sounded as though I was running! I get to the door and pull on it. The door won’t open. I begin to panic. I pull the door again. I look out the window by the door and see no one around. I look back in the room to see if there’s a door I can go out. There is no extra door. The only way I can get out is the same way I came in. I begin to tear up and think that I will be stuck in there until someone else comes in to view the room. I want to scream, but I know if I do the whole room will echo and I will, quite literally, go crazy. I look out the window again and see Dr. Halperin and a few others. I try to motion to them that I can’t get out. One of them motions for me to push the door open. I push it open, and I’m free.

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I quickly get out of the museum…I practically run outside. I had to get fresh air. I suddenly understood how it felt to be a victim of a gas chamber. You feel trapped. You feel betrayed. Alone. Scared. You miss your friends and family. You wish you had said a proper goodbye. You wish you had one more night in your own bed. You long for the day when you could spend time with the ones you love. You wonder why you have to die this way. You wonder if you will ever breathe fresh air again. You want to cry, but it doesn’t help. You want to scream, but help won’t come. Honestly, once the door of that room is shut, there is no more hope. It’s over. The gas will come on, you will breathe it in, and you will die a slow, painful, suffocating death.

Over 650,000 people died this way in this one camp. There were many camps with similar ways of death. The gas chambers were a fast way to die. So fast, it was hard to get rid of the bodies. On a slope of grass at Belzec there are stones to commemorate the mass graves that are under the ground. As I walked around the edge of the stones after my gas chamber experience, I began to look at each rock differently. I saw each small pebble as a baby in a pregnant woman’s body. I saw the small rocks as children, the medium-sized rocks as women, and the larger boulders as men. Each person who died had a story that will never be told. All of their personal documents and pictures were destroyed. We will never know them. We will never understand what happened to them. We have lost human life in a tragic way and for an unnecessary reason.

As I looked back through my pictures I took that day, I realized that the sun had hit just right with the rocks and I ended up taking a picture of a rainbow over a few of the rocks. This gives me hope. This shows that life goes on and it is possible to learn from the mistakes of the past. Although we don’t know the names and stories of those who died, their spirit lives on and pushes us all to never forget the tragedy that occurred. The stones have hope. I have hope. It’s easy to go through this trip and be angry…that’s natural. It’s hard to go through this trip and see any positive. You have to force yourself to see the positive. This rainbow is a positive sign, a gift from God even, to me and those who see this picture, that there is hope for humanity, hope for human life and rights, and hope for change.

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Brutality and horror at Gross Rosen

An update from Forrest, a sophomore human rights and journalism major:

The Gross Rosen concentration camp isn’t your typical concentration camp. Yes, many things that happened here happened at the other camps, but that’s not what made this camp particularly deadly.

The camp has a huge quarry; a cut in the side of a hill larger than anyone could possibly imagine. This is the camp’s unique feature. It stretches out in front of you, at least 100 feet deep, and not all of it even visible. Stone walls line the perimeter. The guide told my group that the water, which covered the bottom of the pit, hid another 20 meters (about 65 ft) of excavated quarry underneath it. The tall walls on all sides of the quarry didn’t just provide a spectacular view of the pit, they also provided a platform for emaciated prisoners to hasten their deaths. Back-breaking labor and suicides led to an average lifespan of 5 weeks for quarry workers.

Working in this quarry were two groups of people. The first group I have already mentioned: prisoners at the Gross Rosen camp. Who was the second group? The second group were salaried employees, people from the nearby town who got to leave at the end of their shifts, returning home to their families, and who were paid monthly for their work. Quite simply, you had average people doing their jobs while slaves worked next to them. How did these people do their jobs while oblivious to the human suffering happening next to them? Money; most humans have a pretty low price.

Working in a quarry is one of the hardest types of work on the planet, and the death toll at Gross Rosen tells us of the brutal disregard for human life that the Nazis had. It’s estimated that over 40,000 died at the camp; most of those dying in the quarry, but others dying of starvation, execution, suicide. Indeed, in several parts of the camp, monuments refer to Gross Rosen’s supervisors as “German Barbarians.”

The quarry itself wasn’t very profitable at all, even though its prisoners were working 12-hour shifts, sometimes even on Sundays. Gross Rosen had over 100 sub camps that diversified the camp’s death portfolio. Prisoners assembled missiles with warheads for German industrial giant Siemens. Other prisoners soldered electrical circuitry. Some even dug tunnels into the rock so that Germans could have an interconnected bunker system.

It never reached its potential, even though 120,000 were imprisoned in the camp while it was operational. Plans were in place to bring in more people from Auschwitz, but this never materialized.

Stunningly beautiful, the camp’s surroundings convince you it must have been quite pretty 70 years ago. Prisoners at the camp say no, it wasn’t. We can speculate all we want about what the camp looked like back then, but I severely doubt it was a beautiful place. Survivors won’t answer questions about the alleged cannibalism that happened there. They’ll take the answer with them when they die.

We’ll never know exactly how bad the camp was, but what we do know tells us it was among one of the worst Nazi-operated concentration camps, prisoners quite literally dying from the massive weight on their shoulders.

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More than ‘a place in a forest’

s1An update from Sarah, a sophomore Dedman College Scholar majoring in human rights, nonprofit organizational studies and music, with minors in religious studies, arts management and communication studies:

Today, December 23, we took a four-hour bus ride from Warsaw to the site of Sobibor. I volunteered to blog about today’s experience prior to visiting the site itself as I had heard Philip Bialowitz speak at SMU about his escape from Sobibor. However, after visiting the site, I found myself at a loss of how to accurately describe what we saw while there.

The site felt raw. It seemed as if the Polish government commemorated the camp out of necessity rather than a desire to remember the victims. The memorial was simply a statue, a mausoleum, a poorly marked symbolic chimney and a path of pine trees. After seeing Chelmno and Treblinka, this camp did not seem to connect to the victims in the same manner.

s2I was hoping to see a greater acknowledgement of those who led the revolt at Sobibor. The prisoners’ revolt effectively ended the camp operations. Led by Leon Feldhendler from Żólkiewka, the revolt began on October 14, 1943 and ended with a mass escape of prisoners. Many SS men and guards were killed, and after the revolt, Germans closed the camp and tore down all of the buildings. After this, there were only two more transports of prisoners to Sobibor.

Even knowing the history behind Sobibor, I had trouble connecting to today’s site. I had trouble acknowledging that each step I took marked a spot where someone had been brutally killed. I had trouble recognizing the incredible loss that took place there, within that beautiful forest, so few years ago. I had trouble connecting the poorly marked memorial site to the 250,000 lives that were taken there.

I had trouble with Sobibor.

The memorial neither marked the heroism of those who revolted, nor the struggle of those who died. It simply marked a place in a forest where a camp once existed.

Throughout this journey, Dr. Halperin has been emphasizing the need to connect faces to the statistics. The memorial failed to do that. Sobibor as it is now commemorates an event in history instead of the thousands of lives that were lost there; the lives that loved, that cried, that felt, which experienced: the lives that were.

Sobibor commemorated a time and place in history rather than the lives that lived that history.

So, as much as I appreciate the time today that I was able to spend remembering the lives that were lost, I deeply wish that I had been able to connect more to each victim of Sobibor.

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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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Resistance

imageAn update from Lara, a senior international studies and history major:

My dad always wanted me to play an instrument. He believed that people who knew how to do something that required special talent and dedication had bigger chances of survival than uncultured people. I used to play the devil’s advocate and say, “Dad, the educated ones are always the first ones to go down,” to which he would reply, “But those are the ones able to start a resistance.” Until today, I never understood these words completely.

When we talk about resistance, most people think about ammunition or guns, but from now on, when I hear this word, what comes to my mind is education. In some cases, resistance has only the complex function of keeping spirits and hope alive.

A big percentage of the documentation that we have today as evidence of the Shoah are portraits. Contraband in concentration and extermination camps would not only provide needed food or cigarettes, but also paper and pencils. As all human beings, prisoners had an inherent desire of being remembered through time. This wish led to signs and names in bunked beds, and drawings of everyday life and mistreatment in the camps, and even expressed the hopes of what lies on the other side of a fence. So you would not only remember them by the piles of shoes or numbers, but by their faces as well. Victims wanted to speak out.

Resistance is not always fought by force, but by ideas – and the Jewish community knew the reality of the power of words. Writing is magical; even God created the world with the word. “In the beginning God was the word, and the Word was with God.” Even in the Warsaw Ghetto, it was too late for some to realize that by keeping quiet and cooperating with the Nazis, they could not even save their own lives. Others had it clear: you die fighting.

When confronted with the reality of the Holocaust, most people tend to think that they wish they could have helped, but none of them realize that genocide and extermination camps are not past events. Foundations have the money and the way, but they lack people.

It was a dearest professor of mine who once told me, “You can’t demand change if you don’t educate right.” Education not only provides the instruments that are required to sense danger, but also a way to confront it. People in Europe at the time were able to accept or deny the Holocaust as something normal based on their anti-Semitic or tolerant education. Hence, Denmark was able to save 95 percent of its Jewish population, while 75 percent perished in already anti-Semitic Croatia.

Thousands are dying in concentration camps right now in North Korea, and yet the only thing I heard in the news is a mockery about a nuclear threat to the U.S. The moment will come when as the U.S. now regrets a late intervention in Rwanda, allowing millions to die under machetes, they will complain about not having been able to prevent another genocide. I am not calling people to arms; I am calling people to educate and help in a peaceful way. I know that you can’t win against injustice. I am saying fight for what’s right and remember the Talmud: “Whoever saves a human life saves the world.”

Shalom.

 

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Remembering the children of the Holocaust

An update from Maria, a graduate student in liberal studies:

When I think about the Holocaust I see the images of emaciated, walking corpses. These are most often adults because they were the ones most fit to work in the camps. However, I feel that very few of us remember the children who were lost during this time. While they were very young, many demonstrated extreme courage in different ways. Some risked their lives to obtain food for their families by crawling through small holes in the ghettos. They were sure to be shot if a Nazi soldier spotted them. Others were forced to work by the Nazis or died along with their families. Could I have mustered up that much courage at such a young age? I’m not sure if I could have. Then I think that no child should ever have to go through this nightmare. These children were deprived of their childhood and their innocence. Who could they have become and what good could they have brought to the world if their lives hadn’t been cut short?

blog1In Majdanek, I saw so many shoes. A room filled with thousands of shoes that once belonged to people just like me. As the sun shone through a window in the barrack, a child’s brown boot caught my eye. It stood out from the other shoes that had lost their luster after so many years. Unlike the other sites, these shoes were not encased in glass, and we could touch them. Although there are almost 70 years between the last time those shoes were worn and today, touching that small boot made it all real for me. I could see the child who owned this pair of boots, unaware of how short his life would be and wanting only to play and be a child. He never imagined how quickly his life could have changed from good to miserable.

blog2The Children’s Memorial in Łódź was established to commemorate the children who died in the Holocaust. I walked up to the memorial and tried to take in everything I was learning about these poor victims of hate. I noticed a little boy and girl playing around the memorial, and this hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t because they were playing but because children just like them had been killed by the thousands during the Holocaust. I snapped a photograph, and the juxtaposition of the bony statue and the live boy was so powerful because this boy has never known the pain those children endured, and I hope he never will.

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Shoes in Stutthof

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

“These artifacts you find at these camps once had a life of their own,” Dr. Halperin informed us today as we walked into the barrack filled with shoes at Stutthof concentration camp. A huge glass encasement of decayed shoes was the first artifact we encountered upon visiting the site. This was located in the building where those who entered the camp arrived and were robbed of their possesions. Anything that could be taken, such as hair, jewelry, clothing, money, and shoes, were robbed by the ones imprisoning them. These shoes belonged to people who had a favorite joke, danced, played with friends, kissed their significant other, and had dreams and goals for their lives. These shoes are more than just an article of clothing…they represent the humans who once wore them.

Visiting my first concentration camp was a very odd experience. I have seen documentaries and heard what was done to the people, but I have never been at a site. As I visited the barracks, walked the grounds, viewed articles of clothing prisoners were given, observed the unsanitary conditions of the “hospitals” and “bathrooms,” and came face-to-face with a gas chamber and crematorium, I felt as though I was invading the privacy of those who had once walked the grounds and were brutally beaten, tortured, and murdered. It felt as though every time my camera snapped, I was taking away from the individuality of each person who walked in that concentration camp.

As I walked the grounds in my scarf, earmuffs, down and lined jacket, gloves, thermals, jeans, shirt, and boots, I could only imagine how it must have been to only be allowed to wear a thin uniform, thin hat, and wooden clogs. I also felt very short and small compared to the buildings and barbed-wire fence around me. The camp is in an area below sea level, so any rain at all could cause significant flooding, and in this particular country, snow is very common. How the people who did survive managed to do so, I’m not sure.

Every person has a story. Every person matters. It is up to us to make sure that something like this does not happen again and that we realize that with every lost life, we lose a story and an important part of humanity. We can’t blame our problems on others, taking out misplaced anger on people who did nothing wrong. We must face our problems head on and deal with them. Things like the Holocaust can be prevented. I am humbled to be able to have stood where these precious and innocent Jews stood and to have the chance to learn more of their story, whether I know their names or not.

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Stutthof: Do not look away

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An update from Jazmin, a senior majoring in human rights and Spanish:

CONCENTRATION CAMP: STUTTHOF
GEOGRAPHICAL AREA: NEAR THE CITY OF GDANSK AND THE BALTIC SEA
NUMBER OF PRISONERS: 110,000
DEATHS: 65,000

Unfortunately, the thought of establishing concentration camps had long been decided since before WWII by Nazi officials. Since 1936, the Nazis had kept a close eye on citizens and developed a  document called “the white book,” which compiled the names of hundreds of innocent Poles to be arrested. Stutthof became the first German concentration camp established on Polish soil. By September 2, 1939 (the day after WWII was declared), the camp officers had assembled over 1,500 prisoners, yet it was designed to have a capacity of 200 detainees. At the beginning, the camp only contained Poles who were active in social and economic life or members of Polish organizations, but later, as “the Final Solution” was presented by Hitler in 1944, Jews were also transported to this mass extermination camp.

IMG_2292By 1939, the site for Stutthof had been selected and the developments had commenced. The camp was far enough from the city and also extremely well hidden by forestry. Hence, it would not only be very difficult to find Stutthof, but it was also nearly impossible to escape. Another reason for the geographical selection of the camp was because it was close to the Baltic Sea, which would also hinder the decisions of the prisoners to escape. The camp was very humid, and when people dug and worked on the land, if they dug more than 60 centimeters, the water would rise from the ground. During times of extremely cold winters, prisoners would suffer tremendously as the cold and wet climate would cause many health problems.

IMG_2297Men, women, and children all died gruesome and terrible deaths! The causes of death varied, but were not limited to asphyxiation purposely caused by the carbon monoxide in vehicles transporting people to Stutthof, terrible sanitation, mental and physical torture, malnutrition, disease, gas chambers, poison, and lethal injections. For the detainees, it is calculated that a working person should consume roughly 4,000 calories a day, but the workers were given only 1,000 calories or less a day to survive. Sadly, people were killed faster than they could be burned. Within 5 years of its existence, Stutthof grew from 4 hectares, which allowed for 3,500 prisoners, to 120 hectares, which allowed for 57,000 prisoners. Somehow, Stutthof developed to hold captive an overcrowded population of 110,000 men, women, and children from 28 countries and over 30 nationalities. At the end, 65,000 innocent people died as a result of the camp. Stutthof was finally freed on May 9, 1945.

My experience at Stutthof was unbelievable! I saw shoes from children who were brutally murdered, uniforms with blood stains, beds (if you can even call them that) where many people were piled together, transferring diseases to one another, and simply a place where thousands of innocent civilians were unjustly executed. At the presence of this scenery, I could finally put a face to all the research and readings that I had previously done. I am extremely distraught to know that such torture occurred.

Walking through the camp, I felt the most unbelievable sadness when I saw the memorial of bones and ashes from the many people who were killed at the camp. Some bones were still clearly visible where they were not decomposed properly. I want to expose such mishaps to the world and hope to impact the lives of others in order to promote humanity and peace because such ruthless incidents should have never happened then, nor now in history. We have the ability to speak for those who do not have a voice! I only ask, DO NOT LOOK AWAY… BE THANKFUL AND LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD.

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