Editor’s Note: A group of local teachers is visiting Auschwitz, Poland, this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. The week-long trip is being led by Terre Haute-based CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which was founded by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who died in July 2019. The educators are sharing their experiences with Journal Review readers. This is the sixth and final installment in the series.
When Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, stepped off the cattle car upon their arrival to Auschwitz, the Nazis ripped them from their mother’s hands and they instantly became orphans at the age of 10. Today we visited Katwoice orphanage, which is where Eva and Miriam went after they were liberated from Auschwitz. After the war, the orphanage housed more than 500 children.
Death of parents, parents dealing with addictions and disabilities are the main factors placing the children, ages 3 to 22 at the orphanage. We spoke to the children through an interpreter. While all the children were dealing with some type of trauma in their lives, it was evident that the sisters love and provide these children a safe environment to cope with their difficulties.
Prior to leaving on the trip, each person in our group was matched to a child in the orphanage and we purchased gifts for the children. My child’s name was Nikol and she was 11 years old. She listed horses as one of her favorite toys, so I purchased her a play horse and stable as well as horse sticker books. She also needed clothing so I included some pants and tops.
I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to travel with 10 educators from Montgomery County this past week and I’m looking forward to learning more about the ways they will incorporate what we’ve learned on our trip into their classrooms.
Thank you, Montgomery County, for following us as we traveled to Poland to learn about the Holocaust. I hope that you may have learned something new, but more than anything I hope that our journals will remind us all that we cannot allow the atrocities of the Holocaust to happen again. Do not be silent.
As our group held reflection time after our visit to Auschwitz. One of our fellow travelers shared the words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany who spent time in a concentration camp.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
As we conclude our trip, I want to share Eva Kor’s Life Lessons and ask that we all share and implement these lessons in our daily lives.
1. Never give up.
2. Prevent prejudice by judging people only on their actions and the content of their character.
3. Forgive your worst enemy — it will heal your soul and set your free.
4. Each of us has a wonderful mind that can help repair the world. Be the change you want to see!
So long from Poland!
— Kelly Taylor
• • •
Today we are wrapping up this whirlwind adventure by going to Oskar Schindler’s Factory and the Katowice orphanage where Eva stayed after the liberation. I believe I am not the only one in the group who would say this whole experience was transformative.
This afternoon we had the opportunity to visit Oskar Schindler’s Factory. He was a German industrialist who was part of the Nazi party. Through the employment of Jews in his ammunitions and enamelware factories and the creation of “Schindler’s list,” he was able to save thousands.
Schindler’s story and the story of those he saved from the Plaszow concentration camp was shared in Spielberg’s 1993 film, Schindler’s List. The exhibits in the factory museum were focused on the Nazi occupation from 1939-1945. It gave a detailed account of the war and Nazi occupation impact on Krakow, those who lived there, and the war itself.
The museum provided an understanding of the lives of people and places like the Ghetto, Plaszow, and the Jewish Quarter at that time. It did so through collections of letters, photos, exhibits and multimedia presentations in a setting that provided refuge and safety for thousands during that period.
Where do we go from here? As educators we are in this business to make a difference, share knowledge and create lifelong learners. As Eva would have said, we have to create a ripple.
Ripples … this analogy was shared in her Sept. 13, 2007 lecture at Wabash College and many other speaking engagements. Imagine that every person’s action is a pebble dropped into the water. The ripples that form touch each other. “Everything we do in our lives touches the lives of other people,” she said. “And if people judged each other by their actions and not assumptions, the world would be a better place.”
Each of us came into this as one person — a single ripple in the water. Together, as people from different schools, a wide array of occupations and backgrounds, different states and even different countries, we became a family. More so, a group who shared in something so transformative that it will bond us forever. More ripples …
As we close this trip Eva’s analogy becomes what “we” have to do. From that single ripple we have become many ripples. It is our job to create a wave. A wave of teaching tolerance, resilience, kindness and forgiveness in our classrooms, schools and our community. Through the sharing of Eva’s story and our own stories. Thank you to the MCCF, Crawfordsville, North Montgomery and South Montgomery schools and CANDLES for this opportunity to learn, explore and bring back to our community.
— Jodi Webster