Human Rights, Poland 2011

During winter break 2011, SMU students and professors and Dallas community members are traveling to Poland with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program. The group will visit Holocaust sites to pay tribute and bear witness to those who perished and survived.

Included in the group are six professors traveling on behalf of the Boone Family Foundation’s Texas Project for Human Rights Education grant. They are: SMU’s Perkins School of Theology Professor Sze-kar Wan, Dedman College Psychology Professor George W. Holden and Cox School of Business Assistant Professor Robert W. Rasberry, along with TCU Associate Professor of Social Work Harriet L. Cohen, South Texas College of Law Associate Professor Katerina Lewinbuk and University of North Texas Assistant Professor of Political Science Jacqueline H.R. DeMeritt. Also with the group is Alice Murray, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, so stay tuned in.

Verbal snapshots from Poland

An update from Dr. Vicki L. Hill, Assistant Dean for the University Curriculum, SMU: I’ve been back from Poland almost a week, and I’m still struggling to answer people’s questions about what it was like, what I experienced. Grateful for their interest, I find myself offering disconnected, contradictory adjectives: profound, devastating, exhausting, inspiring, claustrophobic, terrifying, clarifying. It will be months before I refine these adjectives into something that makes sense, and by then people will have stopped asking. The best I can do now is to offer a few verbal snapshots engendered by some of these haunted and haunting places. The Nazis were successful in destroying all of their installations at Treblinka, second largest of the extermination camps, where nearly [...]

2012-01-05T17:24:32+00:00 January 5th, 2012|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

A rally of the human spirit

An update from Heather Cordova, a graduate student in liberal studies with a concentration in arts and cultural traditions: A group of students, professors and community leaders from the D/FW area came together in Poland for a common purpose. I came on this trip as a journey of the human spirit. Over a 12-day period, we have been concentrating on the Holocaust, but along the way, I have been inspired by speaking with Holocaust survivors and learning about other aspects of Polish culture. Instead of writing about the tragedy of what happened more than 60 years ago, I would like to focus on hope, resilience, strong will and endurance. We had a chance to listen to survivors at the only remaining synagogues in Warsaw and Wroclaw. [...]

2011-12-29T04:26:15+00:00 December 29th, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

Keeping the memories alive

An update from Alice Murray, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance:  If you've been following any of the entries from the trip to Poland 2011 with Professor Halperin's group, you've seen a lot of reactions to the many Death Camps and Pogrom sites and Concentration Camps that we've been visiting since December 18. Yes, we've gone straight through Christmas, and during the coldest part of the year. We've had the opportunity to feel intense emotions and intense physical sensations - and we've felt them all. Every night we take time to regroup and reflect on the experiences of the day, and each meeting unveils an almost chaotic mix of emotions and perceptions. I [...]

2011-12-28T04:32:00+00:00 December 28th, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

We vow to remember

An update from George Holden, professor of psychology in Dedman College: It is now day 11, and we are nearing the end of our unforgettable trip.  Some days have been physically tiring, but every day is emotionally draining. Each of us has relived the horror, atrocities and seen the effects of evil on a scale that is unimaginable — 11 million people murdered, including 6 million Jews. We have walked on the same cobblestones, climbed the very steps and stood on the same wooden floors as hundreds of thousands of innocent people did before they were starved, tortured, and slaughtered. We observed the same trees, churches (both near and far), and towns that the prisoners at some of the [...]

2011-12-29T04:37:23+00:00 December 27th, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

Dear Irene

An update from Sze-kar Wan, professor of New Testament at Perkins School of Theology: 12/22/11 Dear Irene: Irene, you are on my mind constantly, even as we move to Chełmno tomorrow and Sobibor, Lublin, Włodawa the next few days. I will especially remember Płaszów, where your mother and sister worked and were saved by Schindler. I have been offering a quiet prayer at every site. I will say a prayer in particular for Toska and her family at Belzec. I read your book The Choice. What I find most devastating is how plain and simple your words are. Trying to understand the Holocaust is like trying to fill a cup of water from underneath Niagara Falls. If I venture beyond the [...]

2011-12-28T05:45:31+00:00 December 27th, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

A Christmas like no other – Majdanek

An update from Gracyn, a senior theatre major and human rights minor: Well, Christmas just ended in Poland, and I am sad to see it go. The most I felt of my typical holiday spirit was last night at midnight as we walked down the street singing and this afternoon at a gas station where Christmas songs played in English in the convenience store. I have missed my normal Christmas and constantly wonder what my family is doing: Caroline and Alex celebrating their very first Christmas together, Austin opening gifts and finding Santa's stack all by himself, my parents perhaps relieved that Granny is hosting the meal this year. I miss it a lot, but I am honored to have [...]

2011-12-27T00:19:44+00:00 December 25th, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

The shadows of Belzec

An update from Robert Rasberry, professor in Management and Organizational Behavior at the Cox School of Business, who focuses on communication, management and ethics: It is Christmas Eve, and the entire countryside of Poland seems to have retreated into their homes and the start of traditional Christmas celebrations. We have just returned from Belzec, and a very emotional day. This is a camp that 99 percent of the world’s people have never heard about, yet 600,000 people, mostly Jewish, were murdered here in just 8 months. This was the third largest Nazi death camp in Poland, and one of the smoothest run. I read where there were only 12 SS guards, and a few Ukranian staff, running the entire [...]

2011-12-30T03:41:37+00:00 December 24th, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

Chelmno, the children of the Holocaust and Sobibor

An update from Gracyn, a senior theatre major and human rights minor: Yesterday we went to a camp called Chelmno.  This place only JUST had its first book published about it in the last couple months, and Dr. Halperin said he has never met a person in the United States - other than people who have intensely studied the Holocaust  - who have even heard of it, and most know little to nothing about it. About 150,000 Jews, Poles and others died at Chelmno.  They were brought to a historical old palace and told that they were about to be transported to somewhere better for them.  They went to the living room, which had huge windows overlooking the river, a beautiful view.  [...]

2011-12-26T21:23:20+00:00 December 23rd, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

How to comprehend evil

An update from George Holden, professor of psychology in Dedman College: It’s now Thursday, day seven for some of us (others arrived on day three). I am now sitting toward the back of a 45-seat Mercedes-Benz bus, returning to Warsaw after witnessing our fifth killing site, Chelmno. This location, about a 3-hour ride west of Warsaw, was the first exterminating “camp.”  There actually wasn’t a camp, because Jews and others were loaded into large vans that transported them 3 kilometers to a burial site. Naked and terrified men, women and children were ushered into the vans, and then the van’s exhaust was used to kill them over the next 20 minutes or so. This technique was used to murder some 360,000 people, [...]

2011-12-23T17:03:59+00:00 December 22nd, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|

Jedwabne and Treblinka

An update from Gracyn, a senior theatre major and human rights minor: Hello!  We are in Warsaw now, and I am in love with it.  It is beautiful and large and a city I definitely hope to visit again.  I am working hard on my Polish and converse only a little, but I hope to come back when I know more.  Perhaps I will try to live in the Polish section in Brooklyn ... or at least visit it often. When we arrived in Warsaw, by train, it began to snow.  This was Warsaw's first snow of the year that stuck.  That night we toured around and then had a reflection group about the places we had visited. The [...]

2011-12-25T04:14:00+00:00 December 22nd, 2011|Human Rights, Poland 2011|
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