Friday, May 31, 2013

May 28th- Treblinka Memorial

Tuesday May 28th
Our last day in Europe was spent visiting the Treblinka Memorial. Although the weather was not the best, seeing this particular memorial was so inspiring. Personally, it was my favorite. The rugged stones jutting out of the ground in this beautiful meadow was peaceful yet unnerving. The sharpness of the stones reminded me of the broken communities and families that came from the Holocaust, but the flowers and the meadow and the trees surrounding the stones made me feel like the victims could be at peace here. Sarah Ponsini and I actually had a discussion about the grass and moss growing up in between the cement blocks under the stones. She thought it was disrespectful that the weeds and moss were not cleaned up but I thought the opposite. I thought letting nature take over was the natural thing to do.  The only part of the memorial that bothered me, which our tour guide pointed out, was that there were very few Jewish symbols represented in the memorial. But it makes sense considering when it was built and by whom it was built. We ended our discussion at Treblinka by talking about the feelings and controversy surrounding Poland’s involvement in the Holocaust, which is still being discussed in academic historical circles today. Poland is in a complex situation because the population was a mix of victims, perpetrators, and witnesses who did nothing. Having a part in the destruction caused by the Holocaust is a very disturbing concept to accept as a country, and Poland is still working towards it. Dr. Paces says she was seen improvement even in the last two years and our tour guide at Auschwitz has been seeing more and more Polish schools coming to visit the camps. Despite the progress, the topic is still touchy and the question might never been fully resolved. One point I want to mention that we discussed in our class was the difference between saying “6 million Poles were killed, 3 million of which were Jewish” and “6 million Jews were killed, 3 million of which were Polish”.  Comparing those to phrases shows the complexity of the Polish involvement. Which is right? Is it more important to stress how many people of one nation were killed or how many Jewish people were killed, with their nationality second? These are very hard questions to answer and I don’t think either one is necessarily “right”. All in all I thought the Treblinka memorial was the more impressive memorial that we saw on the trip.
            On a lighter note, it was Sarah Hymen’s 21st birthday today! After our wonderful farewell dinner at a very fancy restaurant, the entire group went out for drinks and Alicja bartended for us! We had some trouble finding our way back to the hotel but it was definitely an experience for all of us. I think there are mixed feelings about going home tomorrow, but I think it was an eye-opening and life-changing experience for everyone and everyone took something different from the trip. For some, it was their first time out of the country and for others it was the first time seeing something as horrific as Auschwitz. I think we are all coming back to the ”States” as more knowledgeable, worldly, and well-rounded individual

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