Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 6 Prague

Our busy day began with Holocaust survivor Pavel Stransky, our dear friend, who told us his "Holocaust Love Story." The students were very moved not only by his story, but by his willingness to share his entire day with us at Theresienstadt.

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Accomplished, prestigious Jews from Prague, Berlin and elsewhere were sent to the former garrison town of Terezin, renamed by the Nazis as Theresienstadt. Despite the crowded conditions and lack of food, these Jews, who didn't know where they were going or how long they were going to have to "wait it out," composed operas like Brundibar, wrote literary journals like Vedem, and painted beautiful works of art. Pavel wrote a cabaret, “why do we laugh?” along with other poetry, and in June of 2011 it was performed at Theresienstadt in a former barrack of the ghetto.


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As we toured the museum, Shalmi and Pavel shared information about what we were seeing, including the propaganda film made by the Nazis after the Red Cross visit. The Nazis forced the Jews in Theresienstadt to beautify the ghetto, and even, as Alexandra Zapruder pointed out from Alice Ehrmann's diary in Salvaged Pages, had children sit under heat lamps so they would appear more healthy. The reason for the Red Cross visit? In what was known as "The Artists' Affair", five ghetto artists were able to smuggle drawings out of the ghetto which depicted the deplorable living conditions. A local art dealer was able to get them to Switzerland to the Red Cross. About the same time, when the Danish Jews were taken, their foreign minister demanded to know where they were going, and the Nazis told them they could visit them. The Red Cross came as a result of the concern of the Danish foreign minister and increasing international pressure to view conditions in the camps. Shalmi pointed out that the Nazis, again as the dictator, are very sensitive to criticism. Therefore, they clean up of the ghetto and propaganda film, for a visit that lasted only two hours,and ended without the Red Cross going out of their way to find out what was really happening there.


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We went to the hidden Danish synagogue that until ten years ago was used as a garage to store potatoes. Inside this synagogue, Shalmi read the Hebrew prayers still visible on the walls:
"May it be your will, O God, that we return to Zion and see it once again."
"Please God, abstain from your anger and take pity on the people you have chosen."
"Despite everything O God, we did not forget you. Don't forget us.”



After lunch we went to the small fortress, the concentration camp or prison, ¼ mile north of the ghetto. Shalmi explained that the concentration camp was intended for prisoners who could be rehabilitated to enter into society again, and weren't intended for Jews who were a destructive element in any society and could not be rehabilitated. However, because of the need for labor, many Jews were sent to concentration camps,with the intention that they would be worked to death and not survive. This military fortress, used for hundreds of years before World War II, housed many prisoners, including the Jews of the ghetto of Theresienstadt when they were being punished. The guards of this camp, as well as others, were not only SS, buy also included prisoners, primarily criminals. Most were extremely cruel, showing that "brutality is made by human beings."






























After a rainy bus ride, we entered the parking lot of Lidice Memorial site, where the Nazis razed the Czech village as a

reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. Because of the mistaken Nazi belief that the villagers of


Lidice harbored the Czech resistance fighters who threw a grenade into Heydrich's convertible when their machine gun malfunctioned, the Nazis made a lesson of Lidice. They shot all the men of the village, and sent the women to Ravensbruck in Germany, and most of the children were sent to Chelmno, where they were killed in the gas vans that had carbon monoxide channeled into the enclosed vans.


As we stand in the rain looking at the faces of the children in the memorial, the raindrops streak their faces, just like tears.





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Once back at the hotel after dinner, Alexandra Zapruder read to us from the diaries of two children who were in Theresienstadt: Eva Ginzova and Alice Ehrmann. She spent time talking to us about how what we saw today was reflected in the words of these teenagers during the Holocaust.

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Tyler says:

Today we visited the former village of Lidice, which was decimated by the Nazis. They barged in, took the women, deported them, then gathered every man over the age of 15 and shot them. But the most horrid crime they did was the killing of 82 children that were in the town. The memorial represented them in great detail, and coupled with the rain, I broke down and cried for the first time in a while. This was the strongest of the memorials for me, emotionally.

Gabrielle says:

Pavel said something to me that was so appropriate, but that I had never thought of: What was important in the outside world was not important in the ghetto, and what was important in the ghetto was not important in the outside world. Life in the ghetto was separated from the outside world. While waiting for nothing, the Jewish culture emerged within the ghettos. A culture filled with music, literature, drawings, and paintings brought the Jews together instead of the separation from the outside world breaking them apart. By building a community the people in the ghettos had hope for the future.


Hannah C. says:

While at Lidice, the children's memorial hit home with me, the first child I looked at looked exactly like my brother. Tonight, Ms. Zapruder read an excerpt from Eva Ginzova's diary where she is writing to her brother. The level of love and concern that she has for her brother reminded me of my relationship with my brother back home. I can't imagine leaving my brother, seeing him for the last time, through bars, as Eva did.

Sarah says:

The memorial statue of the children at Lidice was the first memorial I have seen that did not make the figures anonymous and gaunt. They showed emotions like sadness, despair and fright. Their eyes looked up at us pleading for help. The rain falling down made it appear as if they were crying.




23 comments:

  1. Every year I see photographs of the statues of the 82 children, I get a shiver. It is so sad...Hannah C.'s comment about her brother in regard to the states at Lidice was very touching. Pavel's story is another thing that I look forward to...sad...but also so inspiring and heartwarming. Thanks for all your input!

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  2. Hi guys,
    This is so much information about hard truths to absorb and make sense of! Keep learning and stay strong!

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  3. Sounds like today was a very difficult day, both due to the weather and your stops on the journey. Be resilient, keep learning, and bring it back and share so that this type of history never repeats itself.
    Safe travels this weekend, one week down and one to go!

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  4. Pavel has such a powerful and moving story. I find it so amazing how he was able to escape death and even find love with in the walls of Theresinstat. I was so inspired when I heard his story last year.

    How do you all feel about the propaganda film the Nazi's made to make Theresinstat look nice? I personally am quite sicked by how the put on a whole presentation to make the camp look perfect even adding fake sinks and other necessities and the red cross barely bothered to check everything out they just glanced at the surface. Maybe if they had looked into it more something could have been prevented.

    Could you imagine having to worship in an area as small as the hidden synagogue? It is amazing the lengths Jewish people went to attempt at a normal life.

    The Lidice memorial is such a powerful site. It is a shame that such an innocent town was destroyed just because the Nazi's believed something bad about them. It makes my want to cry when I look into the frightened and grief stricken faces of the 82 children. It is so hard to imagine an entire town gone just like that. Sarah makes a good comment about how the memorial is not anonymous but it has the real faces of these 82 children, they will never be forgotten.

    It is an amazing experience to be able to meet Alexandra Zapruder. Make sure to ask her many questions I'm sure she has many fist hand accounts of the Holocaust that she can share with you from all her research.

    Cherilyn

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  5. Also you guys inspire me so much with your posts every night, I feel like I am right there with you guys keep up the learning :D

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  6. The Lidice Memorial is such a sad reality, yet every time I see the faces of the children, I see a different expression and emotion. The photos of these children are by far my favorite. Not because of the carved details, but because of the details that were carved in history during this event.

    You'be all been gone a week and we all continue to wish you well.

    "T" & June, I hope you're both doing well, great job so far. Hey "T", do we get any photos of you on the alpine slide this year (lol).

    Be well

    Mr. Pevny

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    1. Hi Pev,
      Thanks so much for all your wonderful and insightful comments ! We all appreciate your input. Now, for the Alpine slide, we shall see !!!
      Thanks again,
      T

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  7. Visiting Theresienstadt and its ghetto as well as the Lidice Memorial is one of the most moving experiences of the journey. We are all very lucky to have the chance to spend time with Pavel Stransky, he is so inspiring and he definitely defines true love. Not only does he tell and explain his Holocaust love story, but he teaches us all a life-lesson: keep the faith and hold onto hope. Nothing will get in your way if you keep a positive mindset and hope for the best. He taught me a lesson I will forever hold in my heart.

    Miss you T!
    Hi Gingy, your beautiful <3

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    1. Thanks Ashley for following the blog. We all appreciate your insights !
      Miss you too!
      Love,
      T

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  8. Tyler says, "But the most horrid crime they did was the killing of 82 children that were in the town. The memorial represented them in great detail, and coupled with the rain, I broke down and cried for the first time in a while. This was the strongest of the memorials for me, emotionally."
    I am so very proud of you.
    To be open to the truth of this memorial, to let it touch you and to go with that emotion, these are special and rare gifts. Each of you who are letting these stories and these emotions house themselves in your hearts are special people.
    Each day I learn, and expand, and renew, through all of you.
    Thank you for continually reaching out.

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  9. As tough as today was for all of you, I'm pretty sure it will be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your trip.Mr.Stransky sounds like quite an amazing human being and his strength should be an inspiration to all of us. I can't wait for my daughter to tell me all about him when she gets home (in 8 days-but who's counting?) Tomorrow's itinerary sounds sooo fantastic! Enjoy the sights!!!!

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  10. Lidice is definitely one of the most moving monuments that ever existed. It is absolutely sickening to me that these 82 children had no opportunity to make something of themselves. The potential that is illustrated on each statue is heart- wrenching.

    Pavel’s story is one that makes the Holocaust real. He experienced, survived, and lived through it. Pavel lived through the hardest period of time and lived to tell the tale, an award few obtained. What is so scary to me is that there are so many survivors like Pavel left. When the last of them pass away, who will keep their memory alive?

    That is where you all come in. Going on this trip is educating, and obligating. You and the rest of the past and future HST participants need to keep stories like Pavel’s alive. We need to educate people about these atrocities so it will never happen again.

    I miss you T!

    -Michelle Khimishman

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  11. Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for your insightful comments on the blog and for your continued learning. We are going to Olomouc and Trsice tomorrow! Miss you too !
    Love,
    T

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  12. Every year there is a picture of the students on this tour as a group face to face with the children in the monument. I almost described them as the "lost" children, but I thought again. They are not lost. Tent are ingrained in the collective memory of all those who have looked them I the eye and carried their story to the rest of the world. You continue to give them voice and life. I wonder if you understand how truly important that is. And look at the special quality of the rain on the children's faces--their tears? Yours? Is it sorrow or joy? You must be thinking of things like this also as you process the many complex moments of this trip. See you soon.

    Mr. Polizzi

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  13. Reading about what you learned today left me speechless. I can only imagine the feelings you were left with. Listening to Pavel's stories & seeing the memorial was very touching. Best wishes as you continue on your journey.

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  14. It's so moving to see the statues of the children especially in the rain. The videos are a great way to share what you all get to experience while you are there.

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  15. Ah, I was just skimming through this blog today and was going to go back later and read in depth, but I couldn't stop looking at the picture of the statues of the 82 children in the village of Liaice that were killed. Something like that you cannot just skim by. It was just so heartbreaking. The comments of what the teens say is nice to get a feel of what it is like to actually be there.

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  16. The pictures of the children are heartbreaking....but so powerful!

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  17. Michael P. in English 9 commented: "I don't understand what they [you, the students]feel like walking around where these murders occurred. It must be hard for them to look at the harsh conditions the Jews went through..."

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  18. What an great experience. That memorial is the culmination of the efforts of four different sets of students that Mrs. T has brought over there. To see it finally come together it truly awesome.

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  19. Wow the statues are so powerful! The facial expressions the sculptor captured are perfect for what he was trying to portray. I think the stuffed animals that are there are so sad. It's kind of like a reminder of all the victims who never had a chance to have a real childhood and who had their innocence stolen from them.
    Miranda Naas

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  20. When I was reading about the hidden Danish synagogue, it showed me how much faith people had, even during the hardest times in their lives. They never gave up on their faith and they always kept praying. That gives me hope! We all need faith in our lives! :)
    -Casey Pigott

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  21. I find it very touching how at the children's memorial, the rain made it look like the children were crying. I think that memorial does an amazing job of showing the emotions of the children. It is so sad that those children and so many others never got to live as long as they should have.

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