From Dec. 29 through Jan. 13, 22 students from Perkins School of Theology/Southern Methodist University — led by Dr. Robert Hunt, Director of the Perkins Global Theological Education Program — are participating in the Palestine-Israel immersion course. Their itinerary includes lectures and interaction with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and scholars, and travel throughout the region, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho, Bethlehem, Ramallah, the Sea of Galilee and more.
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
An 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 [...]
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 [...]
An 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 [...]
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 [...]
Sixteen SMU students, faculty and staffers, along with D/FW 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.
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. [...]