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History matters
Polish Radio ^ | 26.07.2007 | Michal Kubicki

Posted on 07/26/2007 12:25:39 PM PDT by lizol

History matters


American students study history of the Holocaust at the Auschwitz camp

Michal Kubicki reports

There is surely no better place to study the Holocaust than the site of the former German Nazi camp of Auschwitz.

Some 1.1 million people, almost one million of them Jews from Poland and elsewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe perished there. A group of ten American students is spending several weeks at the Jewish Centre close to the former camp to gain insights into the common history of Poles and Jews.

The Auschwitz Jewish Centre was founded eight years ago to cater for Jews and non-Jews alike. It serves as a place where visitors to Auschwitz can memorialize Jewish victims of the Holocaust and commemorate the rich Jewish-Polish life and culture eradicated during World War Two. It also helps visitors to learn about the vibrancy of Jewish culture through exhibitions, lectures and educational programmes. Under one of these programmes – A Bridge to History - the Centre brings groups of foreign students to Poland so that they, in turn, can educate the next generation about the Jewish community that once existed in Poland, the Holocaust and its message.

The director of the Auschwitz Jewish Centre Tomasz Kuncewicz.

‘It’s a new experience for most of them. Some of them have already been to Poland but for most of them it’s the first time. The exposure to the Jewish heritage, what is left here, the whole Polish-Jewish interaction and the current revival of Jewish culture in Poland – all this is for many of them a new experience.’

In addition to Auschwitz, the American students toured Jewish heritage sites as well as Polish historical sites in Warsaw, Łodz and Krakow with its former Jewish district of Kazimierz. David Frey:

‘We spent a lot of time in Kazimierz and we had a lot of discussions about what is the best way to preserve and to commemorate Jewish culture. We have no agreed opinion on that because there are questions of what is legitimate preservation, what is not legitimate preservation and commemoration. Certainly there’s a lot of evidence of Jewish presence in the Kazimierz district in particular. There’s obviously preservation of pre-existing Jewish life but the reasons for it all are to be discussed. Some of it is commercial, some of it is legitimately scholarly and intellectual, and some is obviosuly from interest on the part of Poles in reviving a part of their broader heritage.’

Some members of the American group are Holocaust educators. I asked Carol Simon how useful has this Polish experience been for her work in the United States.

‘Absolutely beyond value. I have a notebook that is more than full of information and feelings that I’ve got. We’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with scholars here on different aspects of pre-war life, the Holocaust and post-war life. We had the opportunity to meet with some Polish people and have discussions and I will certainly bring that back onto my community. I also run a film series and the first four or five films will deal with Poland. When I show a film I speak for twenty minutes before the show to give some information about all aspects of Jewish life in Poland and I will certainly incorporate what I learnt here in that.’

Carol Simon, one of ten American students participating in the ‘Bridge to History’ programme at the Jewish Centre, located close to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps. The programme is made possible largely by a grant from the US State Department.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: auschwitz; history; poland; ww2

1 posted on 07/26/2007 12:25:42 PM PDT by lizol
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2 posted on 07/26/2007 12:30:50 PM PDT by lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)
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