Morristown, N.J. (June 8, 2016) – A Holocaust study mission in Europe isn't something many college students think about the day after graduation, but for nine young women from CSE, that's exactly when it all started.
Beginning on Sunday, May 15, 2016, these students embarked on a ten-day study trip in Germany and Poland. Not knowing what to expect, and ranging from freshmen to graduate students, they were about to experience something unlike anything they had before.
The journey, a tour of many Holocaust sites, was in some ways a heavy one, but ultimately inspiring.
"I know it has changed me for the better," Mia Chevere, '19, said.
A majority of the places visited were memorials to the millions of people who lost their lives from 1933 to 1945, and each student who attended was touched.
"It's one thing to read about something as terrible as the Holocaust, but it's another to actually visit the places where it happened," said Catherine Bialkowski, '18. "Truly being there and seeing that all of these places still exist makes it real, and reminds us that we can not forget what happened."
The travelers made their way from Berlin, Germany, to many areas of Poland, including Krakow, Lodz, Lublin, and Warsaw. The schedule was tightly packed with multiple sites per day, including the Topography of Terror, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the Auschwitz concentration camp, just to name a few, but this made the experience unforgettable. For the students, most of whom have studied the Holocaust in school, it was as if history had come to life.
In many ways, these ten days were not only a study trip, but also a tribute to all individuals persecuted during the Holocaust. CSE students were accompanied on the journey by Dr. Harriet Sepinwall of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, Dr. Margaret Roman, director of the honors program and professor of English, and Dr. Anne Langan, professor of sociology. Additionally, the students were blessed to have children and relatives of survivors, and even a survivor of the death camp Majdanek, with them throughout the tour. The journey was enlightening, as people shared stories and visited places personally connected to their own lives.
CSE students were honored to spend the length of the trip with Pinchas Gutter, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto and various concentration camps. Pinchas shared emotional testimonies at all of the sites that personally affected his family, and spoke not only of horror and suffering, but beautiful memories of his family before the war. The effect was undoubtedly life-changing.
In Mia's words, "Being a part of the Holocaust study mission trip was such an honor. It has changed my thinking and how I see the world."