Human Rights, France

Eighteen students, faculty and staff from SMU and Dallas are traveling to France during spring break 2014 to study the role that country played in the Holocaust, when Nazi-occupied France deported 76,000 Jews to be murdered in or en route to extermination camps.

Three cities in France

An update from Forrest, a sophomore: Paris. Strasbourg. Lyon. All world-class cities. All located near sites of atrocities against the Jews of France during the Second World War. Paris. The site of the Drancy Deportation Center. Here French Jews were brought before they were deported on the train. Out of the country, out of sight. Now people live here. The barracks built for the deportees are now suburban flats for families on the outskirts of Paris. At the center of the barracks/apartment buildings/homes is a reminder of the past that memorializes the plight of people brought here – a single boxcar. Lyon. Near this beautiful city located very close to Switzerland is the very small and quaint village of Izieu, [...]

2014-04-02T17:14:27+00:00 April 2nd, 2014|Human Rights, France|

It cannot be forgotten

An update from Erika, a Master's student in Liberal Studies, with an emphasis on Human Rights: “Oh my gosh, you’re going to have SUCH A BLAST! France is so fantastic.” That’s what I repeatedly heard when I would tell friends and family that I was going to France on a study abroad trip about the Holocaust. I didn’t mean to, but I would get quite frustrated when they would say these things. I know that France is amazing, I know it’s fantastic, but I was going to study one of the darkest moments in history. In a way, I was telling everyone I know that I was going to do this trip just to see if anyone would react with [...]

2014-03-27T15:34:47+00:00 March 27th, 2014|Human Rights, France|

France and the Holocaust

An update from Candice Bledsoe, the founder and director of the Cutting Edge Youth Summit and a fellow for the Texas Project for Human Rights Education: The pilgrimage to experience learning about France and the Holocaust has been profound and moving. Learning about the dark years in France confirms that history must be shared to avoid repeating the past. As a mother, I found it extremely difficult to see the town of Oradour-sur-Glane. It was a beautiful city of 642 that stood on a beautiful landscape. The Nazis burned the entire town, while shooting men and women in their legs. Only five people escaped. To visit the town today and bear witness to these crimes is very emotional. The remains [...]

2014-03-17T09:31:10+00:00 March 15th, 2014|Human Rights, France|

Bearing witness today

An update from Amber, a junior political science and human rights major: When I decided to come to France with the Human Rights group, I didn't really know what to expect. As a Human Rights major, I have been exposed to some of the worst examples of human rights violations. On this trip we visited multiple Holocaust memorial sites and I realized that no matter how much you are exposed to the violation of human beings, it never becomes any easier to accept or understand. It is just as hard to bear witness today as it was when I first began my Human Rights journey. I am reminded that humanity is capable of great good and great harm, and it [...]

2014-03-14T15:52:57+00:00 March 14th, 2014|Human Rights, France|

Remembering the innocent

An update from Jennifer, who earned a Master of Liberal Studies in 2010 and is pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study focused on human rights and social justice: Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the house, the town where you grew up – what it looked and sounded like during springtime, who your neighbors were, what you did on a regular Saturday afternoon. Could you ever conceive of your memories being shattered by the encirclement of your town by an invading army bent on killing everyone who lived there? The 642 people in Oradour-sur-Glane near Limoges, France, probably never imagined that could happen to them, but it did – on June 10, 1944. German soldiers from a Waffen SS unit separated the men from [...]

2014-03-14T16:01:01+00:00 March 14th, 2014|Human Rights, France|

Still close to tragedy

An update from Katie, a graduate student in Liberal Studies: March 11. Oradour-sur-Glane. The quiet, sunny tranquility of the day sharpened the contrast between today and the day everyone in this town of 642 was brutally murdered by Nazis. After visiting the roofless church where all the women and children were killed, I felt so weighted by sorrow and grief that I was unable to lift my head. Among the spartan remains of what was only recently a life-filled town, a rusted car rests. It is so recognizably modern; it is a chilling reminder of how close we still are to this tragedy, and how easily it could happen again. March 12. Izieu. At this place, Klaus Barbie, the "butcher of [...]

2014-03-14T12:00:53+00:00 March 14th, 2014|Human Rights, France|

Exploring France’s dark past

An update from Merle, a graduate student in Liberal Studies: Have been experiencing a tour of sites in France associated with the WWII Holocaust. We have concentrated on French atrocities. Not only has the trip been an eye-opener and sometimes a tearjerker; it has also taught someone who felt she knew that era's history so much more. I heard "Vichy" in the past and thought mineral water or thick vegetable soup. In fact, it was the capital of what remained, in theory, of independent France after 1940 when the Germans marched into the northern part of the country. Now we have learned how un-independent that Vichy government was when it came to protecting the nation's Jewish population. We are seeing [...]

2014-03-14T12:39:59+00:00 March 13th, 2014|Human Rights, France|