Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 12 - Auschwitz - Birkenau

Today we spent a very cold and windy day in what was Konzentration Lager [KL] Auschwitz.  Auschwitz was not one camp but was a complex of three prmary sites:  Auscwhitz I was the administrative center and concentration camp for primarily Polish priosners, Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II] was the death camp, and Buna [Auschwitz III] was for manufacturing and testing facilities, which also had dozens of labor subcamps.

We met our guide, Wojciech, who would take us through Auschwitz I which now serves as the museum.  Wojciech had been our guide before and we had been very impressed with both his knowledge and his style of interacting with the students, both in asking and in answering questions, so we were very pleased.  We started under the iconic sigh:  Arbeit Macht Frei.  There, he gave us the history of the camp.  Built in the town of Oswiecim, Auschwitz is the Germanization of the name of the town.  It was established by the Nazis in 1940 and was in use until the Allied liberation in 1945.

As we stood outside the gate we could see several of the 28 brick buildings which made up the camp.  The living conditions in the camp were severe ---hard work, starvation, disease and brutal treatment--- so that the average time between one’s arrival in Auschwitz I and his death was about 2 months.

In Block 4 we were shown a large model of a gas chamber which we would see later in the day, in Birkenau, which showed the three phases of its operation.  First, there was the disrobing room where people undressed.  The second phase was where two Zyklon B pellets were dropped through the vents in the roof, which with water, created a deadly hydrogen cyanide.  The total time necessary to kill all 1500 people in the gas chamber was twenty minutes.  The third phase required Jewish prisoners in a special unit called the Sonderkommando, to remove the bodies and burn them in the underground crematorium.  The average length of time one served in the Sonderkommando before being killed himself, was 3 months.

In  Block 5 were exhibited the ‘evidence of crimes’:  belongings brought by victims to Auschwitz, confiscated by the SS and found after liberation.  Separate rooms containing shoes, artificial limbs and crutches, eyeglasses, prayer shawls, shaving kits, household cooking items, baby clothes, and other items which had been packed in the labeled suitcases they packed.  These provided physical evidence of the existence of so many victims as well as some insight into what they might have thought was their destination.  A large room with a wall-to-wall display case of more than 4,000 pounds of human hair was especially moving.  The hair was sold to textile manufacturers for production of army uniforms or gloves and socks for railroad workers.

In Block 7 we could see the living quarters of the prisoners in Auschwitz.  Lining the walls of the halls were photographs of the prisoners, with their name, prisoner number, nationality, date deported to Auschwitz and date of death.   Here we could see what we had been told at the beginning, that the average life expectancy of a prisoner was 2-3 months because of the harsh conditions. 

In Block 11, which served as the prison for the camp we saw three types of punishment cells:  dark cell, starvation cell and the standing cell in which three or four people could be forced to stand for days at a time.  Punishment might be 3-5 days in one of these cells for a minor infraction of a camp rule or 2 weeks for sabotage.  Time in a punishment cell could be a death sentence.   After viewing the execution wall between Blocks 10 and 11, where tens of thousands of prisoners were lined up naked and shot, we stopped to see in Block 27, an exhibit created by Yad Vashem which opened last year.  Wojciech told us that many nations such as Netherlands, and Hungary had created special exhibits in various block barracks.  This one, created by Yad Vashem, was highlighted with an exhibit called the Book of Names.  In a long room, a book as big as the room, fills two sides of thousands of pages, listing the names and some information such as place of birth and birthdate, place and date of death, if these were known, of more than four million documented Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Our last stop in Auschwitz I was the crematorium of the camp.  There we saw the home of the camp commandant Rudolf Hoss and the gallows where he was hanged for his war crimes in 1947.  The gallows was used once --- for his execution.  We then walked through the crematorium which was used to cremate the bodies of people who had perished in the camp.

After a brief bag lunch on the bus as it was bitterly cold, we drove the short distance to Auschwitz-Birkenau where Shami spent two hours showing us the death camp.  He talked about how the camp had changed in the spring of 1944 when the Nazis expected one million Hungarian Jews to be transported here.  It was then that they added the rail spur coming into the camp, preparing for the influx of prisoners.  Next Shalmi spoke of the importance of “The Ramp” where the selection process was made determining whether one was to live or die.  He told us several emotional stories shared with him as he chronicled their testimony, in which they described their experiences on The Ramp.  He told us many survivors often speak of their life “before the ramp” and their “life after the ramp.”

Our last stop was the Auschwitz Jewish Center which has a museum, synagogue and education center and presents Jewish life in the town of Oswiecim before and after the Holocaust.  Before heading back to the hotel, we also enjoyed some hot chocolate and coffee to warm up from the day in their adjoining CafĂ© Bergson, which is located in the home of the last surviving Jew in the town, a Mr. Kluger, who died a few years ago. 

Watch today's videos on our YouTube Channel at 

 Student Reflections

Karishma says...
As I brush my fingers against the stained pages     

4 million names flickering through the ages


And there I read "Khan"
My name
But how
I am not Jewish
I was never told to be Jewish
But there lay 16 Khans
Is there even a bond
I stand there in shame 
In the book of names

Taylor says...
When inside Birkenau, Mr. Barmore told a story about a guard seeing a little boy standing alone calling out for his mother that was no where in sight. The guard walked down and saw a young woman and grabbed her and screamed at her but she denied the fact he was her son but when they approach him, he ran to her arms screaming "Mommy." The woman said "Please I'm only 19 years old, I want to live." This story made me think about all the other families that had to make the same decisions.

Henry says...
As I walked through Birkenau and heard stories of the tragedies that occurred it became clear ones perspective of events can be easily abandoned to aid one's life. Birkenau embodies events of misery and in order to retain life and survive individuals took vastly different courses of action. Some were forced to abandon their innocence to retain life and some were forced to blur the line of innocence to cherish life.

Kayla says...
It is hard to imagine that the tragedies of the Holocaust happened right where I stood in Auschwitz and Birkenau, but as Mr. Barmore told us the stories of the people he had met, and we looked at the places where they occurred it felt completely real. Every place that we saw today made me have different emotions and places like the room of human hair made me realize how real this truly was and how many victims there were.

Kyle says...
Being at Auschwitz was so powerful, for one of the first times in my life I was completely speechless. Seeing the horrible living conditions these human beings just like us had to live through was a moving experience and just showed that some things just cannot be taught through a textbook. The most painful thing in my opinion that I saw today was seeing the mug shots of these innocent prisoners faces which were all bruised up and expressionless from the cruel torture the camp caused to these prisoners.

Kelly says...
Today was certainly one of the most influential days of the trip. I was immediately struck by the barbed wire that surrounded the camp, it was hard to imagine what the Jews were confined to even thro

Julia says...
Going through Auschwitz was a surreal experience. I thought that I would go there and cry. But everything seemed so unreal to me. During some parts of it I felt as if I was in a dream. I have been reading stories about Auschwitz since I was little and to actually be there was amazing. The story when Mr. Barmore said the girl told her mom to die hit me hard. The girl forever has to live with the guilt of her mom only wanting to save her. Throughout the day that was the only story I could actually picture happening. All through this trip I have been able to picture situations, but today I could not even imagine what was happening there during World War II.  It was hard to see a place where such cruel things happened to such innocent people.

Caitlin says...
Being at Auschwitz and Birkenau was so powerful. I cannot fully articulate what I saw today, but I think the thing that struck me the most was when Mr. Barmore said "the main part of the story is when there's no story." The survivors we hear from today are the minority and I think today that really began to sink in.

Camille says...
As soon as I stepped into Auschwitz, the atmosphere changed. It was suddenly colder, darker, and gloomier when I entered. It was difficult to not picture the tragedy that had happened there. It felt like I was living both in the present and the past. It felt so real like if I were living it. Before visiting Auschwitz, all this history just felt like words on a page but seeing it and being there made the whole thing solid and undeniable. This day will stay with me forever.

Rose says... In both Auschwitz and Birkenau it took information and my imagination to even begin to understand the past of these places. Seeing the room full of women's hair, the last physical part of them that still remains was surreal. Mr. Barmore told about a man who stopped traffic to let the train to Auschwitz through and felt that he had no part in the killing, but he did, they all did. We believe that we are past this part of our history and this cruelty but in what ways have we changed? How are we so different that this could never happen again?

Julie says...
As a student who has studied the Holocaust I can say that this trip has truly amazed me. Walking through Auschwitz I understood more clearly what all of the testimonies, diaries and textbooks are stating when they describe the scenery as well as emotions they saw and felt. It's hard to imagine what these people had to go through while inmates in the camps. When I approached the entrance gate I saw what thousand and thousand of innocent people saw and that was a certain beginning of terror.

Caroline says…
Today is a day that I will never forget. Walking through “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate in front of Auschwitz, I suddenly felt as if I was looking at a photograph in class. I wondered what thoughts were running through their minds when they arrived. Did they know what was about to happen? As we proceeded through the camp, things became more unreal. The women’s hair, the children’s shoes, and the thousands of suitcases, left me speechless. I will take the experiences of today with me forever.

Cydney says...

Walking through Auschwitz-Birkenau today was both fascinating and heartbreaking. It was amazing to actually see the camps I've studied about in school and read about in books because it's one thing to hear about it but when you see it in person it makes it more serial. Two things that really made me emotional was the display of the hair from the women that were in the camp and the children's shoes. I think that those two things hit me hard because the women had their heads shaved upon arrival and to me that's such a traumatic event. These women had no one idea what their fate was or what they were going to be doing in this camp and right away they were stripped of their clothing and they had their heads shaved. The large pile of children's shoes broke my heart because they were so tiny and the fact that those children's lives ended so soon and tragically was really hard for me to handle. 

Seungyoon says...

When Mr. Barmore was telling the story about the son who survived after his mom pushed him on the ground, I felt a rush of emotions and imagined the guilt the son has to face for the rest of his life after saying to his mom and sister "I hope you die!". Ironically, his mom and sister were really going to die and she pushed him away for him to survive. After Mr. Barmore finished explaining the story, I teared up because this mom is exactly the same kind of parent my mom is. My mom would do anything and everything for my brother and I to have the best life possible. Therefore, my mom would do the exact same thing in order for me to survive. Furthermore, I truly feel I grasped the idea of decisions people had to make during the Holocaust in order for their children or loved ones to survive. I will never forget Mr. Barmore's stories about these people and remember them to honor their choices.

Charlotte says…

Walking through and seeing the exhibitions in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the word I thought of most was "vast." it was an indescribable feeling to stand on The Ramp. No matter where you looked, all you could see was the camp and it was heartbreaking to realize that this is what the prisoners saw and what they probably felt was just the feeling of no escape and no freedom.

Darya says…

Today was so emotional especially seeing the names of the 4 million people that were killed due to the Holocaust. It struck me so hard when I found the names of my ancestors because many of them were killed during it and seeing their names was all too real. Another factor that I could not get over is that we were walking where the victims walked nearly 70 years ago but we were the lucky ones because we were able to walk out when millions did not. Seeing the ruins of the barracks and the gas chambers made me sick to my stomach because the Nazis had the audacity to try to destroy the camps when they realized they were going to lose the war. The fact that they wanted to destroy any evidence of their horrific crimes is disgusting because it amplifies the idea of them being cowards and not wanting to face the reality of their actions. Today was both emotionally and physically challenging and one that I will never forget because I was able to connect emotionally by going and learning further about Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Autumn says…
Today I walked the streets and railroads of where millions of Jews, gypsies, and others were killed, abused and taken advantage of. It really got to me when I saw a video of a 4 year old girl dancing and smiling in a flower garden and she was so innocent and her fate was led into a different direction... I learned and took in so much today and I am blessed to have been given this opportunity to be on this trip. 

 Deanna says.... 

After visiting all the camps today, it really made a huge effect on me. The items of those who lost their lives were stored to be looked at and photographed. Several feet of hair of the women whose lives were taken were put on display too. The most interesting part of today was the story we were told where the mother pushes away the son continuously while he chases after her, but only later does he realize she was pushing him away to save his life.

Alejandra says... 

Today's visit was to Auschwitz was emotionally. Mr. Barmore told us stories of personal testimonies of those who went through the transportation. Hearing the stories made me feel fully connected. Having younger siblings I'm very protective of them and to hear how many children were killed was painful to hear. Today was an emotional visit.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Day 11 - Krakow

This morning we were so happy to have our regular local guide, Paulina, who had been ill yesterday, join us.  Our day began in the Jewish Quarter, Kazmierz. Shalmi gave us the history of why large numbers of Jews came to Poland in the 16th century when they were invited by the aristocracy. Jews came here and formed communities called shtetls in the rural, mostly unpopulated areas. Jews provided capital for the seeds that needed to be planted, and also had a monopoly on the sale of vodka and this became a very lucrative enterprise. Jews became the tools of the nobility, who didn't like them, but needed them. However, this put the Jews in a precarious position with the local serfs, who were Catholic. Shalmi reminded us that Jews were outside of Christian law [ex lex] and therefore received their protection from the king who regarded them as his property.

As the Middle Ages progressed, Jews came to this area in huge numbers. For Jews, Poland was a land of opportunity. Unlike the Jews in Berlin and Prague, the Jews here did not assimilate; they acculturated. In Germany the Jews wanted to be German, but in Poland it was different.  By the 20th century, most Jews here spoke Polish.  They took on and enjoyed the culture but did not seek to take on the identity as Poles.  This had much to do with the Polish-Jewish relations at the time.  By 1919, this caused problems with Poles who wanted to be identified by their nationality, and did not see Jews as a part of their nation, but as outsiders. By 1939 in Poland, because of many factors, including a bad economy, the Poles have a very strained relationship with all minorities here, including the Jews, who represent 10% of the population. Because so many Jews lived in the heart of big cities, their presence wass felt more by the non-Jewish residents.

Our first stop in the Jewish Quarter was the Stara Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, also known as the Old Synagogue because it was built in 1407.  Shalmi told us how, when the king wanted Jews to come and manage his properties, Jews could not come alone, but needed to live in communities.  A Jew, for example, cannot pray alone, but ten men, a minion, are needed for prayer.  Jews also required a rabbi, a kosher butcher, etc.  This was all essential for the Jews because of their ‘open account with God’ that Shalmi had spoken of earlier.  As an exiled people, they needed to balance the practical [their existence in the real world amidst Christians] with the spiritual [their need to continue to abide by God’s commandments in order to have God forgive them and return them to their homeland in Jerusalem].  This meant Jews were ambivalent about their two roles.

Inside the synagogue Shalmi pointed out the various parts of the synagogue that we were becoming familiar with, explained the difference between the menorah and the hanukkiyya, taught us that the Sabbath was the most holy day in the Jewish calendar.  The Sabbath represents the difference between the sacred and the secular, those two worlds in which Jews lived, and told us how the havdalah [meaning ‘differentiating’] were used to close the Sabbath.  Shalmi also told us about some of the practices of Hasidism, such as the method of teaching a young boy to read beginning at the age of three, by putting honey on a letter of  the alphabet and then saying the sound so that the child connects learning to something positive and sweet and the importance and rationale in the Jewish community behind arranged marriages.
From here we crossed the square to visit the Remu Synagogue, also known as the New Synagogue because it was built in 1650, which is currently under extensive renovation.  Outside we walked through the Jewish cemetery, where Jews were given land to bury their dead.  We had seen one other cemetery located next to the synagogue in Prague (the Pinkas Synagogue) and Shalmi reminded us that this was unusual.  Jews would never place a cemetery close to the synagogue unless there was no alternative.  However, since Christians told the Jews where they could live and where they could have land, this was the property allotted to them to bury their dead.  Shalmi shared several stories about individuals buried in this cemete

We next visited the Tempel Synagogue, a reform Jewish synagogue built in the 1860’s which has Moorish designs on the ceiling and is quite ornate, reminiscent of the Spanish Synagogue in Prague.  Hasidic Jews did not like this synagogue which incorporated elements of Christian churches such as the pews aligned and facing front and the fact that the day of prayer was changed to Saturday.  The Hasidic Jews said of the building, that it was not a synagogue but a temple, for Gentiles.  The word ‘temple’ therefore, used to describe a synagogue, was originally a pejorative word referring to non-traditional Jewish synagogues.  Inside the synagogue was a klezmer concert and we were able to enjoy the music for a short while.

On our way to lunch, we stopped briefly to get a sense of the Jewish market.

Our bus drove us across the Vistula river to the Jewish Ghetto of Krakow, where the Nazis forced the Jews to move. The Krakow Ghetto was a sleeping ghetto, where the Jews slept at night, and worked in factories outside the ghetto during the day. The Jews ran this ghetto, and in contrast to the Warsaw ghetto which had an uprising, the Krakow Jews were determined to do nothing to provoke the Nazis to do anything worse.  As Shalmi said, the leadership stressed that nothing should be done to affront or confront the Nazis.   The ghetto residents built the walls surrounding it in such a decorative way, showing their resilience and belief that this ghetto would be a new protected area, where they would be able to ride out the war. We saw both of the remaining remnants of this wall during our drive to our next stop.

In front of the museum that once was the pharmacy of Tadeusz Pankiewicz,  Apteka Pod Orlem (Pharmacy Under the Eagle), we looked out over the open memorial, with chairs, that represent the furniture that the Jews carried over the bridge into these cramped quarters, where 17,000 people crowded into 320 houses. Shalmi told us the inspirational story of Polish pharmacist Tadeusz Pankiewicz whose diary documents ghetto life.

Inside the museum there is an exhibition about the Krakow ghetto and the role of Tadeusz Pankiewicz.  Visitors can open drawers, look into cabinets, browse through binders with quotes from his diary, smell substances in the numerous jars of chemicals, and search for information in a multimedia center. 

Here Shalmi explains that Plaszow Camp, located only 5 miles from here, was built by the people from the Krakow Ghetto who believed they would survive the war because they were building a labor camp. They even built a barrack for children there, so they believed that their families would remain intact. However, on March 13, 1943, all Jews from the ghetto were supposed to report to the square at 7:00 a.m. Once there, all children under age 14 were told to line up separately. Their parents were told that they would come to Plaszow the next day. Pankiewicz chronicles in his diary that some saw this as a bad sign and rushed to the pharmacy to purchase one of two drugs.  One of the drugs was Valerium--a drug that put their babies to sleep, so that parents could smuggle their babies into the Plaszow camp inside of suitcases.  Shalmi told us that 12 children are known to have been smuggled into Plaszow in this manner.  The second drug requested by many Jews was Cyanide, for suicide.  At 1:00 p.m., the Nazis ordered those not in the children's line to start marching from the ghetto to Plaszow. They left behind what they were unable to carry. The following day, their children were taken away and shot. Two days later, some parents found out when they were forced to sort the children's clothing, and found the clothing of their own children.

We stopped briefly at Oscar Schindler's factory, a recently opened part of the Jewish Museum of Krakow, so that we could see the gate to the factory, which is still the original.

Our final stop of the day was Plaszow labor camp where Shalmi explained the geographic set up of the camp and its function.  We stood at the site which was the hill of executions where Ukrainian  commando units would carry out the executions.  Shalmi explained the history of the camp over its two years of existence and described how a transport of 10,000 Hungarian women from Auschwitz in May of 1944  who came to Plaszow wearing striped uniforms, with shaved heads and numbers tattooed on their arms, was how the Jews of Plaszow finally learned what had been happening in Auschwitz, not far away. 

We headed back to the hotel where the students were able to participate in a Google Hangout before getting ready for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Krakow, Scandale.

Please go to our YouTube Channel and watch our videos from the past days. Slow wifi on the road caused the delay.

Day 10 - Dabrowa Tarnoska and Tarnow

This morning after breakfast, Jurek Stelmech, and 20 of his students came to meet us at our hotel and walk us to their school, Zespol Szkol Ponadgimnazjalnych No. 2 which was nearby.  Dabrowa Tarnoska is a town in southern Poland of about 15, 000 residents.  We had visited here briefly last year to visit the synagogue which had been restored in 2012 and met three teachers who had been instrumental in its restoration and conversion in to an educational center and museum of Jewish culture.  We maintained contact with the teachers throughout the year and this year were invited to spend the day with them.

We started out at the school where we were once again officially greeted by the principal of the school with whom we had dinner last night.  We were accompanied upstairs by the Polish students to a room which had been prepared for our visit.  Signs with Polish and American flags, and significant quotes relative to Holocaust education chosen by the students, adorned the walls.  For example there was a quote by Janusz Korczak, a famous Polish Jewish educator who ran an orphanage in Warsaw and who walked with his 200 children to a transport which would take them to Treblinka in the great round up on August 6, 1942, which said “We must not leave the world as it is” and another by songwriter Bob Dylan, “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with their freedom.”

A witness to events in Dabrowa Tarnoska during the war, Wladyslaw Machnik, spoke to us about his interaction with Jews of the community as well as events that occurred during Nazi occupation.  We would learn later from information in the synagogue, that in 1939 the population of the town was about 6, 0000 and 80% of them, about 2,400 were Jews.  It was surprising to learn that there had been such a large percentage of Jews in the community.  150 Jews survived the Holocaust, most saved by locals, including Catholic priests who would issue false baptismal certificates and neighbors who would offer hiding places.  This assistance offered to Jews came at a great cost.  In 1942 there were 62 residents of the town who were executed for hiding Jews.  8 residents of Dabrowa County have received the title of Righteous Among the Nations from Yad Vashem for their rescue efforts.  In 1945 less than 100 Jews returned to Dabrowa Tarnowka and today there are no Jews in the town, the last surviving Jewish resident dying recently.  Mr. Machnik shared his stories and memories and we had a chance to ask questions. 

Next we were divided into two groups and were given an excerpt from a book, “Krwawe Upiory” by Adam Kazimerz Muslat, which described the fates of the Szkotak family in whose home four Jews had founding hiding in the attic unbeknownst to the family.  In a roundup the Jews were caught the family was executed.  The law which was issued by the German district governor of Warsaw on November 10, 1941, describing the penalty for helping a Jew in occupied Poland was also read.  Polish and American students and teachers then discussed the law, the event, rescue efforts in general and its ramifications.  We also talked about how though there were many Poles who did provide aid and rescued Jews, there were also many more who did not.   Why did people choose to help and why did others refuse?

After some refreshments provided by the school, we walked to the office of the Regional Superintendent of Education, Tadeusz Kwiatkowski, who greeted us and gave each of the students a gift bag from the town.

We then walked down the hill to the cultural center where we were thrilled to be able to attend the afternoon session of an all day artistic program put on by students from local high schools for the 12th annual Holocaust Day of Remembrance.  12 high schools in the counties of Tarnow and Dabrowa Tarnoska held competitions in their schools in which students chose a Yiddish or Hebrew song,  or a poem or excerpt from a book, story or play written by a Polish Jew.  Students not only learned the song or passage, but had to write essays to explain why they had chosen the piece and what it meant.  The teachers then chosen the finalists from each school and on this day they were all in the final competition.  The Master of Ceremonies was Jurek’s wife, Yola.  She introduced Mrs. Tambuscio as the leader of the Holocaust Study Tour and asked her and Mr. Barmore to say a few words about our program and how we had connected with the town, the school and the teachers.  The competition then resumed and we were treated to outstanding singing, dancing and dramatic presentations.  It was such a joyful celebration of Jewish music and words and we were so glad that we had this opportunity to witness this.  In a town with no Jews, these students and their schools and teachers had chosen to keep Jewish culture alive through this celebration on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Net we walked with Jurek and the Polish students to the beautiful restored synagogue of the town where Karolina Pikul talked to the students about how it was restored, the meaning of the paintings on the walls, and explained the artifacts.

After a brief pizza lunch with the Polish students on the grounds of the synagogue we walked across the street to the Jewish cemetery where Karolina explained the Nazis had removed all the tombstones and had used them to build roads and a pool in the area.  After the war, the locals found all the tombstones they could and brought them back to the cemetery, but without records they had no way of knowing which gravestone belonged with which grave, so they are randomly placed in the cemetery. The locals did know, however that the tombstones should face east, towards Jerusalem, so they did place them all facing east.   Karolina told us there had been two mass murders of Jews in the area.  In 1942 180 Jews had been forced to dig their grave and then were executed.  In 1943 36 members of the Judenrat [Jewish Council] in charge of the ghetto were executed.  There was also a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust  built by the Samuel Roth Foundation in 1993, using the fragments of tombstones which had been too damaged to be placed as a grave marker.  One Polish student and one American student each lit a candle and placed it at the memorial. 

Our last stop in the town was to visit a memorial to a rescuer family, the Medalas, built in 2005 to honor this family which had been executed for hiding Jews.

We drove back to the hotel where we said goodbye to our new Polish friends and picked up our luggage to head to Krakow, the last stop on the Holocaust Study Tour.  On our way we made a brief stop in Tarnow, where we visited the only remnants of the Skwer Starej Synagogue: the beautiful, tall bima.  The Nazis destroyed the synagogue in 1939 but many of the buildings that were part of the Tarnow Ghetto remain.

We arrived in Krakow at the Holiday Inn and set out on foot for our first dinner here, at the Kogel Mogel restaurant.  After dinner we walked to the Market Square where we soaked up the atmosphere, heard the bugler on the top of the hour, then headed back to the hotel for journaling, debriefing and a good night’s sleep.

 Student Reflections

Camille says…
Thank you for taking time out of your day to help us learn new things.  It felt great to feel so welcomed in your school.  You guys talked to us like we were your friends and that made me feel better about being there. 

Darya says…
I would like to thank you the community for welcoming us with so much hospitality.  The ability to be guided by the students was also a great experience because it allowed us to talk amongst each other and discuss the Holocaust and its effects and see that we share many of the same thoughts;  even though we are from different countries.  It was a pleasant day spent with nice people and I enjoyed seeing and learning about the town’s past and learning process about the Holocaust. 

Karishma says…
To the students of Zespot Szkot Ponadojemnszjalnych High School,

I would like to thank you personally for welcoming us to your country with open arms.  The cultural performance was enlightening and shows us that we can try to change the past with the future.  Your hospitality was memorable and the history you imparted on us will live forever.  Hope to see you soon.

Kyle says…
Thank you for being so warm and welcoming and making this such an enjoyable experience.  Your hospitality was so great and I just wish I had more time to get to know you.  Visiting the old synagogue was fascinating because it was in ruins and owned by the government and not too long ago it was restored to its former glory from before World War II.

Kayla says…
Thank you so much for allowing us to experience the Polish culture and for inviting us to your cultural voice presentation.  Today was a fantastic learning experience for all of us and we were honored to be part of your holocaust memorial service.

Cydney says…
Thank you so much for welcoming us into your school and sharing this experience of hearing what Mr. Machnik witnessed and learning about the synagogue.  Everyone was so welcoming and it’s fantastic that we can share our learning experiences with you all.

Caitlin says…
Thank you so much for welcoming us to your wonderful city and allowing us to be part of your ceremonies.  Listening to Mr. Machnik speak was so fasciniating and really made me think about what it meant to live in Poland during that time.  I will always remember the experiences I had today and am truly grateful for being given this opportunity.

Julie says…
It was such an amazing experience getting to meet and connect with all of the students through Mr. Machnik and his first hand realities, it was nice to see how interested the students were in the memorials and their stories as we were.

Caroline says…
I really appreciated hearing a witness speak to us today about what he saw as a young man during the Holocaust period. Thank you Mr. Machnik for your willingness to impart such a difficult story.

Julia says…
Thank you so much for welcoming me into your wonderful school. It was amazing to hear a witness speak. I loved hearing his stories. The synagogue brings so much to your history. It is so great that you renovated it and brought it back to life. I also enjoyed walking around the town. You’re doing great things at your school. Thank you.

Alejandra says…
Thank you so much for welcoming us into your school! I had so much fun visiting the school and seeing how your school is like. Thank you also for taking us to the memorial/ cemetery to learn the past of your town. Discussing the story of the family who got killed for unknowing hiding a Jewish family showed how this town did have an effect on the history and of the Holocaust.

Henry says…
Thank you for having us. Dabrowna Tarnowska is an amazing city and I loved the warm welcome. I would like to thank everyone for contributing Polish insight into the Holocaust. The cultural performance was fun and energetic.

Seungyoon says…
My new friends! I really appreciate the hospitality you showed us. You were welcoming, friendly, and funny. Thank you so much for having us. In addition, lighting the candle and placing it on the memorial at the graveyard was a once in a lifetime experience which I’ll never forget.

Taylor says…
Thank you for having us! Your performances were amazing and I felt so welcomed. Your school was wonderful and listening to Mr. Machnik speak was inspiring.
It was an amazing visit to the town of Dabrowna Tarnoska today, everyone was so friendly and it was a great learning experience. Thank you for making us feel welcome and showing us around your town. I really enjoyed the Holocaust remembrance program, you’re amazing you are all so talented!

Charlotte says…
Thank you for being so welcoming and inviting us into your school and helping us learn about your town and culture. Being able to hear the story of the witness was a great experience and especially being able to connect his story with the modern times and the student’s life was really interesting and enlightening.

Autumn says…
Thank you for your instantly greeting us with all smiles. I enjoyed hearing your student’s personal stories of their great grandparents during the Holocaust. Thank you for all the nice gifts since we have arrived to Poland. Can’t wait to explore more of Poland. Thank you so much for being so hospitable towards us and welcoming us into your town. You are all very kind, genuine people and you have a beautiful town. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time at your school and with all the students. Thank you again!