Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 6 - Prague

Our busy day began with Holocaust survivor Pavel Stransky, our dear friend, who told us his "Holocaust Love Story."

Kasandra says. . .Today our group met with 90 year old Holocaust survivor Pavel Stransky. He explained to us the story of his past and how love and hope helped him all the way to survival. This story of fear, torture, but also love really touched me and brought me to the conclusion that Pavel is not just a man with many stories, love and hope, but he is a man with SOUL! It really opens my eyes to how much we take for granted and persuaded me to now say that LOVE is the most important thing in life! Thanks Pavel!

Sarah S. says. . . love, rejection, loss, love re-found. The telling of Pavel's story and his verbal visuals created an emotional and nostalgic atmosphere in which I remembered my history--my grandfather's story and the story of my connection to the importance of remembering.

The students were very moved not only by his story, but by his willingness to share his entire day with us at Theresienstadt.

Casey says. . .At Theresienstadt we walked through the tunnels used by soldiers during World War II for a quick escape from the concentration camp. Inside the tunnels was dark and scary --- you never knew when there was a turn coming up or if you were going to walk into a wall. Exiting the tunnels hit me hard, though, because at the end of the tunnels was where prisoners were executed by firing squad, electric chair or were hanged.

Jordan says. . .Today at Theresienstadt [the work camp], we took a walk through the underground tunnels which were used by Nazis soldiers to travel around the camp quickly. When we came out of the tunnel, the first thing we saw was a small area where Nazi soldiers did shooting drills, but it was also where many of the executions happened. Before the prisoners were killed they had to decide how they were going to be executed; either by electric chair, firing squad or being hanged. I cannot imagine having to make such a horrible decision because the outcome of my choice that was made would be the same: life-ending.

Lilibeth says. . .In Terezin at the Magdeburg barracks where art, music and literature were displayed, I felt all six million Jews and their stories. In some complex way, music and art express what words often can’t; it shows a different side of people and that side is real and hurting but in a way that gives understanding and clarity. The pictures showed a mix of emotions - despair yet also hope. It gave me a clearer understanding of the Holocaust through an artistic viewpoint. Everything is more vivid, live, real; not so black and white when you feel it all around you, as if walking in their shoes. Nothing will be the same again.

Saidie says. . .When entering Thesienstadt, the pain and suffering of the victims struck me, every aspect, building, room, left me with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart. One feature that affected me the most was the underground tunnel, turning and winding in darkness only providing little light to see. The walk through felt about 30 minutes to an hour long when in actuality it was only 10 minutes, exiting to the location of Jews and other prisoners being shot by the firing squad, hung, or electrocuted. The intensity, despair and depression of the sight was and will remain astonishing.

Jessica says. . .It’s amazing how during the Holocaust sheer humanity was disregarded. Going through the Terezin Ghetto Museum that displayed the artwork of children and others made me realize how much the Nazis didn’t care. They didn’t see the Jews as talented people who played instruments, sang, or painted. They were numbers and nothing more.

Mackenzie says. . .As we entered the Theresienstadt concentration camp, I had the unique privilege and opportunity to sit on a bench with Pavel while we discussed the emotional effect of his revisiting the site that took so much away from him. When I said, “This is so crazy, seeing the camp,” he quickly responded, “People are crazy.” Though such a simple statement, these words say so much. People truly are crazy -- the human mind is capable of virtually anything, yet it is up to the individual to decide just how crazy they will be. This remarkable man also said that “one cannot survive without hope –without hope we are dead.” These words deeply touched me, for I have endured my own personal hardships in which the only thing I had left was hope. Pavel Stransky is a lovable, generous and wise 90 year old man who has forever touched my life.

DaiQuan says. . .The quote that touched me the most was when Pavel said “You must have hope. Without hope things die.” It made me understand that if you want to see good things happen in your life, you must have hope.

Reagan says. . .Tears. A man about five foot three inches tall inspired me to tears with his story. His strength to even recount such a darkness is as surreal as the experience he endured. Pavel Stransky could move mountains with his words.

The walls display many works of the talented musicians, artists, and writers who were kept here.

Celina says. . .The Terezin Ghetto motto of "I'm alive as long as I am creating" struck me as a clear echo of what really transpired in the ghetto. The artistic beauty that emerged from t he ghetto seemed absurd to me because i never understood how this beauty could thrive in such an environment. But with this saying, I am able to more fully grasp the meaning behind the art, music and culture of the Terezin Ghetto

Michelle says. . .Pavel preached about the importance of love in one's soul. If a man that experienced such great hardships and still believes in love and life than there is no excuse for anyone to not. After Pavel's story, all my personal struggles seemed to dissipate. After putting everything into perspective, I realized that if you are still breathing at the end of the day, it is a good day.

Ashley says. . .We visited the Lidice Memorial and saw the memorial to the 82 Czech children who were murdered by the Nazis. I saw 82 different children, 82 different faces, 82 different voices all asking the same question, Why me?

Greg says. . .Lidice was truly beautiful today, yet that beauty was not enough to mask the truth of what happened there. On that beautiful plot of land are 82 statues of Christian children who were put in gas chambers by the Nazis.

Cherilyn says. . .As I stood in Lidice and I looked over the open land where the town once stood I couldn't believe how such atrocities could have happened in a place of such beauty.

Shalmi translated a Hebrew diary entry by Czech composer, pianist and conductor of Raphael Schachter, that captures the complexity of life here in Theresienstadt:Today milk froze in the pot. The cold is very dangerous. The children do not take off their clothes and the lice multiply in the teenagers' dwellings.

There is the premiere of “The Bartered Bride." The presentation was the most beautiful I have seen thus far in the ghetto.

My sister Minsi whose husband died in the fortress, is summoned with her children to the transport. I will appeal, but will I be successful? If not, what will I say to her? Minsi will surely be cross with me. My uncle is also on the reserve list for the transport.

My quarters where I live are getting nicer and nicer. One should see a woman's hand [meaning he had a new girlfriend].

This photo shows Shalmi translating from Schachter's diary.

Theresa says. . .Being in the Terezin today I have never felt more uncomfortable and more interested in my life. It was such a mix of emotions just thinking about what happened there and I think it will definitely impact how I view the world in the future.

Francesca says. . .I remember talking to Mrs. Bauman and I had asked her why they had a pool in the Small Fortress in Terezin. She told me that the head officer would sometimes use it but when it was empty it had a different use; they used to put fathers and sons in there and force them to fight until death all for an extra piece of bread. Then I thought of how pools today are used for pleasure and that during the Holocaust they were utilized as a weapon of devastation. I don't think I will ever be able to look at a pool the same way again.

Deanne says. . .Pavel Stransky's story really moved me today and going to Terezin with him made the day even more special. In particular, what we saw I the Small Fortress, solitary confinement cells, false sinks which never had water and the places where people were murdered really sickened me.

Sammy says. . .Pavel Stransky's story truly moved me and brought me to tears. Looking at this 90 year old man and his strength and courage to carry on with his life as well as educate others really had an impact upon me. Hearing a survivor story first hand really brought me back in time and caused me to think about my life and how I will look at things differently after hearing Pavel.

Sarah P. says. . .The Holocaust gave chances to some while it took them away from others. The Nazis were given the chance of control which almost completely destroyed the Jews' chances to live. By telling their story, those who survived offer the chance for humanity to change- the chance to distinguish the paths of progress from those that lead to evil.

Brenton says. . .Toward the end of Pavel's testimony he asked “What is the most important thing in life?” He responded by saying “the love between a man and a women is the most important thing in life.” I connected his closing theme to family because after reflecting on his story and my own life, I realized my family would always pull through and be there for me, just like his wife was for him.

Nick says. . .No longer a person, just a digit. In front of the Terezin Concentration Camp lie fields filled with graves of those who died. Many of the tombs had only a number. No name. No epitaph. Simply a digit. It is the ultimate stripping of identity: suppressing one's religion, isolation of person's into a camp and the deletion of one's name.

Tonight we rode the funicular up the hillside to our restaurant overlooking the magical city of Prague.


  1. Wow, I can hardly hold back the tears reading and seeing all that you are learning and experiencing. What an amazing education you are all having at such a young age. You already were outstanding students to be chosen to go on this trip and now you are so much more worldly and knowledgeable about real life and the real world. I believe this experience will truly change your lives forever in the way you treat others and yourself. Stay positive in knowing what good and caring people all of you are!
    Can't wait to learn even more when you get home and share all of your notes and pictures.
    Love, Diane

  2. I am so moved by what Pavel Stransky had to say. Even though it was only a sample of what he had said it also sounded very true. Everyone in that room is so blessed to be able to talk to a survivor, to hear his hardships, to embrace his emotions and truly understand what it was like. As he said, "keep the story alive", i'm sure anyone who experienced a one in a lifetime opportunity to talk to a survivor like this will never forget it. This is also important because they are very old as is and who knows how long there will be survivors for.I'm sure that they will pass on the story and it will be told for years to come so no one will ever forget special stories such as this.

  3. Your reflections that I just read are so powerful. Learning like this cannot be duplicated in the classroom, no matter how hard we try. Keep up the great work everyone!

  4. When I heard you would be meeting Pavel I was very excited. I had read and article about him last year when the group went on the trip. What an wonderful man...what an amazing life! I wish we all could have been as fortunate to be in the audience to have heard everything he had to share with you. Thoughout your lives, no matter how tough things may seem, please recall Pavel and all his struggles..."You must have hope. Without hope things die."

  5. Reading all of your comments and listening to Pavel this evening has moved me to tears. I can not help but think of my fathers entire family that was wiped out in the concentration camps. You are all so lucky to have this experience, especially with the benefit of the guides and interactions that most people who make this kind of trip do not have the opportunity to experience. Mrs T, I'm sure I speak for all of the parents when I say that I hope you realize how grateful all of us as parents are, that you have made this truly one of a kind experience a reality for our children. You will truly have changed their lives forever. Because of this I have pledged to myself that I MUST make this trip myself. I would also love to give back upon your return by producing some of the artifacts I had promised to you previously for yours and the students review and would be glad to share with you some of the first hand experiences my father had told me, so that I "would NEVER forget."

  6. A powerful yet tearful message was sent not just to the students but to myself as well. The memories of the events that took place which was told by Pavel really made an impression on how lucky we all are in our lives. Nothing should be taken for granted and "Remember and Never Forget".

    Thank You Again,

  7. We as a family are grateful for this opportunity to be able to follow the trip on the blog. The learning and emotional experience is one that every youth should encounter. Holocaust Survivors are a tremendous educational resource about the atrocities of Jews in World War II. Though they endured the Holocaust, most are not free from the pain and memories of the event. Their stories allow us a better understanding of this part of history. Continue learning and exercise your right for a thirst for knowledge of past events. Enjoy the rest of your trip and as always be safe. God Bless! Saidie continue taking lots and lots of pictures.

  8. What an amazing man Pavel is! you are so fortunate to meet and learn from him. The memorial of the children is both beautiful and heart-wrenching. To think that things such as that could happen to innocent children..On a lighter note, I love the group photo. Your trip is teaching me so much!

  9. Celina's comment. . ."The Terezin Ghetto motto of "I'm alive as long as I am creating" struck me as a clear echo of what really transpired in the ghetto."..struck me as well. I know people who are ill sometimes use art therapy to help them cope. It is clear that in The Terezin Ghetto that was the case. I am enjoying your BLOG. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I think this story is very moving and interesting. It makes me sad to hear about what these people went through. I don't think I could ever I handle going through the struggles that these people did. I bet this was an amazing experience.
    Have a safe trip,

  11. Thanks to all for your insightful and meaningful comments. We look forward to them every morning and discuss them at breakfast.
    Tomorrow we are moving on to Olomouc-Trsice which will be a very important part of the trip as we meet Milos Dobry, a Holocaust survivor, observe a Passover seder in the Jewish community and meet with the rescuers of the Wolf family.
    Please read our upcoming post on Day 6 - Part Two about our meeting with Eva, the daughter of Lici who was the sister of Otto Wolf.

  12. When Pavel said love is the most important thing, it really struck me. Last week, my mom went to a day convention where she heard a Holocaust survivor share his story. He talked about how he witnessed mothers and their babies being forced apart from each other and since the mothers wouldn't back down from trying to protect their children, they were shot. That is true love; laying down your life in order to save someone you love. I can't even imagine having to go through that. Thanks for sharing that with us!

  13. I'm a little behind in posting... I have kept up daily though.... tonight I was getting ready for dinner, and stopped to read yesterday with Pavel. I cried for a long time listening to his love lost... his hope for life.. his unforgettable past, and the reasons for life now. I can't even pretend to understand or know what he told all of you in full.... but Frankie -- YOU will tell me everything.. I hope you are keeping copious notes. I am sitting, waiting to hear it all from you, and to learn through you. All of you will keep Pavel's history alive in recounting his life. The best way to honor his life, is to retell it to everyone you meet going forward. This horrible, horrific past cannot repeat itself. You are all courageous young adults. I am proud of all of you. Do Pavel proud, and never forget. Francesca and all of you make me so proud. I will continue to read on. I cannot wait to continue.....

    And Frankie... we will swim.. in pools of life together... I love you so very much, heart and soul.

    I continue to smile through your good times there and smile with you all.

    With admiration for each of you, and much love Francesca,

  14. Seeing what you are seeing woul dbe incredible. I can't imagine how moving it would be to actually witness the site of the horrible things the Nazis did, because it is totally different than learning it in class. LB- our class misses you, Mullen tells us to be quiet every 5 seconds. Have fun guys and learn a lot!


  15. First of all you are all doing an AMAZING job by keeping us updated, thank YOU for that. it's just incredible how you are giving us the opportunity to learn through your experiences. You are all being missed a lot. Specially Brenton in my Spanish class. Look forward to hear more from all of you.

  16. Walking through the tunnels at the Theresienstadt work camp had to be scary. When you think about how prisoners were shot or electrocuted right after they left the tunnel it really makes you think. I wonder if they knew as they walked through the tunnel if they were going to be shot or electrocuted at the end. That would be so scary.

    I'm sure it was very interesting to hear Pavel's story. It's nice even though he is very old that he speaks to groups to tell his story. It's is much better to hear a story like that from a real person than a story in a book.

    -Dashawn Harden