Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 9 Trsice

As we make the journey from Olomouc to Trsice, we are reminded that in the spring of 1942, Otto Wolf, his sister, Lici, and their parents made this journey on foot as they escaped deportation to go into hiding in the forest.

We are greeted once again by our friend, the mayor of Trsice, Mrs. Leona Stejskalova, with the traditional plum drink, bread and salt. Only this year in addition to our group of students and teachers, Eva and her husband Tony and Alexandra Zapruder join us. Inside, while sipping coffee and tea provided by our hosts, we listened to Dr. Brezhina tell the story of the Wolf family. When he finishes, the mayor introduces the officials who are going to sign an official memorandum signifying cooperation between the Jewish Community of Olomouc and the organization for the destroyed Czech villages and towns of World War II. This memorandum is a direct result of our visits and work with the diary of Otto Wolf.

When he finishes, the mayor introduces the officials who are going to sign an official memorandum signifying cooperation between the Jewish Community of Olomouc and the organization for the destroyed Czech villages and towns of World War II. This memorandum is a direct result of our visits and work with the diary of Otto Wolf.

There are three projects that will come about as a result of this memorandum:

1. the Jewish Community of Olomouc will provide resources for a new memorial in Zakrov. 2. the memorial to the rescuers and their families that we are dedicating today 3. A new museum in Trsice about this history where the first artifact included will be the pen used to sign this memorandum.

When we were in Berlin, Shalmi spoke to us about language as a unifying factor for humanity. Throughout the five years that we have been coming to Trsice to learn more about the Wolf family and their rescuers, our guide, Ilona Zahradnikova, has given us the gift of language through her tireless translations of the Czech language into English. Without Ilona, none of this would have been possible. We are very grateful to her for her work with our group on this historical day.

We board the bus with many villagers to ride into the forest for the unveiling and dedication of the memorial. The bus drops us off at the exact location where five years ago, Milos Dobry, led us the first time we trekked through the forest to the Wolf’s hideout with him. The pictures of the memorial and the surrounding area speak for themselves as to the work and preparation that has gone into this site. Petr Papousek, the grandson of Milos and leader of the Jewish Community of Olomouc, leads the ceremony, while Milos' great-grandson and great-granddaughter cling to their father's legs.

More than 100 people, surrounded by newspaper photographers, television reporters, radio journalists and reporters listen as the mayor of Trsice and other Czech officials recognize Colleen Tambuscio for her dedication to this project.

Otto's niece Eva expressed the gratitude felt by the Wolf family for the efforts made by the community both in the past and present.

One particularly moving part of the ceremony was the reading of Otto’s diary by local boy scouts.

These boys had slept in the forest the night before not 100 yards from the hideout. The two boys read a passage from the diary in Otto's original Czech language,

followed by our own Aidan reading an entry from Salvaged Pages in English.

Following the unveiling, many of the people assembled, in accordance with the Jewish tradition, placed stones on and around the memorial.

As we look around the forest, we cannot help but remember the other years we have come to this place through the narrow, treacherous trails with all of the students from New Milford, Jersey City, St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop O’Dowd high schools who have been with us over the years.

These students are in our hearts because they also have experienced the sounds and smells of this forest, walked through the trees and looked into the hiding place.

On a clothesline strung between two of the trees near the memorial, Dr. Brezina had laminated pages from our 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Holocaust Study Tour books that include photographs of past visits to these woods, photos of pages from Otto’s original diary and written reflections of individual experiences here. Yes, our students from the past are with us on this historical day.

We leave the woods to go back to the village of Trsice to the restaurant across from the frog statue where we enjoy a delicious lunch hosted by the mayor.

At Zakrov, our final stop in the area, Mrs. Ohera and younger sister who was only five years old when her father was rounded up, along with Otto Wolf, in a raid to capture local partisans who had been operating in the area. They show us the memorial with the names, photographs, and birthdates of the 19 men who were tortured, and were killed April 20, 1945.

As Alexandra Zapruder says in the introduction to Otto’s diary, “. . .the diary paints a picture of a group of people who exhibited a whole range of human conduct, including altruism and generosity, indifference and opportunism, impatience, selfishness, and cruelty, and whose conduct itself shifted and changed over time, defying all attempt at simplification or generalization.” We are struck by the knowledge that Otto, despite being tortured as a result of being denounced as a Jew, did not betray any of the people of Trsice and Zakrov who had helped his family in hiding for three years, nor did he tell about his sister and parents still hiding.

Otto is the unwavering boy, whose diary led American teachers and students here, together with his descendants, to this place in the woods to mark the place where Czech rescuers saved his family.

Gabrielle says:

At the first cemetery in Prague, rocks were laying on the tombstones, which meant nothing to me. Today at the memorial, the rocks meant so much more. Times have changed between the Holocaust and now, but these rocks are something that someone of that time or our time could possess, which is why the rocks felt so appropriate to remember the Wolf family by.

Hannah C. says:

The thing that impacted me the most was that I became a part of history. Not only did I see one of our teachers, Mrs. Tambuscio, unveiling the memorial, I also got to witness something huge. I got to watch Jewish people being represented in a place where once they had not even been allowed to breathe.

Alyssa S. says:

Today we experienced history and some of us heard something for the very first time---we heard Petr read a section of the Torah. I felt more at home, and I felt I could pray for the people who died or experienced the Holocaust. It was also ironic, because during the Holocaust, people were persecuted for being Jewish, yet now someone was speaking in Hebrew at a memorial of the Holocaust.

Gaby says:

I felt uncomfortable when we were at the memorial in Zakrov and we saw how old the boys were when they were killed. I can’t even imagine something like that happening to me because they were my age. I am appreciative of how the people in this town have great tolerance and created a memorial to the Wolfs who don’t even share their religion. I don’t think I can completely grasp what went on today, but I’m sure that in ten years I will look back and be grateful.

Alyssa L. says:

Across from where the Ohera family hid the Wolf family, was a huge field that to me symbolized freedom. I couldn't imagine what it must have been like for the Wolf family to see that open field every day and at the same time know that they weren't free. It was even harder to stand at this place with the Ohera sisters and understand that their father died after his efforts to help preserve the Wolf family's freedom--they were almost able to run across that field and run free.

Devanni says:

I felt a personal connection with the Ohera sisters because I also lost a parent. They taught me that it's okay to let your guard down and open up. That moment with the Ohera sisters impacted me the most of any throughout this entire trip.


  1. I would like to start off by recognizing Mrs. Tambuscio, Mr. Chang, Mrs. Bauman and Ms. Sussman. You have all worked to hard on every aspect of this trip and this memorial and today you made history!! Congratulations!!

    I remember myself opening up Salvaged Pages a little over a year ago and readying Otto Wolf's Diary. I was so inspired by his and many others with in that book and even went on to read Mrs. T's full copy of Otto Wolf's Diary and other book pertaining to the Holocaust and couldn't wait to go to Trsice. After learning so much about Otto Wolf I was anxious to see what this hideout was going to look like but when we arrived at the spot in the forest I didn't even know we were at the hideout. All I saw was a hill with three shallow holes in it and a bunch of bushes and branches. I thought to myself, wait the family that I read about lived here? I was in shock and disbelief for quite some time. Even to this day I don't know how the Wolf family lived in that small space.

    When we all think about the Holocaust we immediately think about everyone who was sent to concentration camps and killed there but often we don't think about how many people where persecuted in other ways. I know I personally had never thought of this until I saw the Wolf families hideout. It had never occurred to me that the families who "escaped" were tortured in other ways. Could you imagine living with your whole family in the woods and having to rely on others just to get a meal or having to fear every time you went to get water they someone would see you and you would be killed? I know I personally cannot.

    I am so happy to see a memorial to the Wolf family and too see that there were news reporters and so many other people there. We may just be a few small town from the United States but we have made a difference!! The memorial looks beautiful and I really like how you all placed a rock on it, it may not mean a lot to most people but understand that this is a sign of respect for Jewish people I find it very meaning full.

    Also I would like to say I see my page from last year's book in there and it made me very happy to see that I was "at" the memorial today. I hope to one day see it in person.

    Once again you have all done an amazing job!!

    (sorry for such a long post)

    1. Mrs. Bauman explained this project to me and now to see the results is amazing. Wonderful! P.S. Tell Mrs. Bauman if KU wins tonight she might win the office pool :)

  2. Bravo, Mrs. Tambuscio, Mr. Chang, Mrs. Bauman, and Ms. Sussman. History made by a history class? Very special indeed.

  3. Congratulations to Mrs.Tambuscio,Mr.Chang,Mrs.Bauman and Ms.Sussman for all of your hard work and dedication that made this historical day possible. There is something to be said for hard work and dedication and that memorial is proof of that. It is now there and will be seen and remembered by all who witness this area. I thought it was a great touch having the photograghs from the past tours hanging and present there. It is students from past tours as well todays students and future students that will teach us and the following generations that this time period in history should not be forgoten and to not allow such a crime to ever repeat itself again. Thank you all for doing your part and inspiring so many.

  4. Mrs. Ohera is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met in my life. Her story is one I cherish, not because it has the happiest ending, but it exhibits strength, perseverance, and survival. Her father died with pride for his people, and Mrs. Ohera’s admiration is visible 70 years later. No translator on this earth could decode the emotions exhibited on her face. I could write about her forever, but I will stop at that.

    My day in Trsice is one I will never, in my whole life, forget. This was “my point” where everything came crashing down and I made the connection that everyone in this program experiences. This is when the Holocaust Study Tour transitioned from fellow participants into a family.

    Words really cannot and will not, ever, describe what you all experienced today. You all were a part of establishing history. This is something I’m sure you will all take through the rest of your lives. To experience such a beautiful event with such heroic people is life-changing. I cannot wait to see videos of this ceremony, though I’m sure it will not be the same as what you all experienced.

    Remember: you experienced today’s festivities with your HST group, and for that you will forever be connected.

    Mrs. Tambuscio, Mr. Chang, Mrs. Sussman, and Mrs. Bauman: this memorial would not have been completely possible without your dedication.

  5. Bravo! I'm so proud of ALL the students this year, and over the years of the HST!! What a difference you all have made in helping bring Otto Wolf's story to the forefront! The addition of the stairway with railings, the cleaning up of the area, and the beautiful memorial makes me proud to see everyone's vision come to fruition. I loved seeing the laminated pictures from the past HST books. It's nice to see how all the students were recognized by the locals in Trsice. Continue with all you have ahead of will get very tough. But, again, so worth while!

  6. The memorial to The Wolf is the perfect example of the Motto "NEVER AGAIN". I hope to visit the memorial, someday.

  7. It looks like you ahve had such a memorable trip! I hope that someday I can visit the Wolf Family Memorial, see our school's name, and cherish the fact that I was apart fo helping of the dedication of the memorial in Trsice. Cannot wait to hear all of the memories when you return!

  8. What an amazing experience. (Though I have not commented as much as I should have), I have been following every day of your journey. You should all be so proud of yourselves for following through with what you believed in and doing something so important for so many. I remember New Milford going on this trip for the first time when I was in high school and to see it still going on, and to think back on the amount of students whose lives have been changed by this trip is truly remarkable. I look forward to following you each morning, and Ben - Period 1 misses you and says "hi!"

    -Ms. B

  9. The clothesline strung between two of the trees near the memorial with pictures of the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Holocaust Study Tour students is astonishing. Knowing that you will be on that next year for the next group of students to see is probably the best feeling in the world. The memorial looks absolutely beautiful and I found it amazing how you all placed a rock on it. Stay safe, good luck tomorrow!

  10. The Memorial looks great! What an amazing experience. You should all be proud of yourselves. Looking at the Memorial photos, I noticed many of the Holocaust Book Spreads that we created back here in New Milford, New Jersey. What a proud feeling it is to see our work and efforts hanging around this memorial.

    Hope you all continue to expand your horizons on this trip and may all continue to be safe.

    Mr. Pevny

  11. What an amazing trip you are experiencing! Looking at the pictures and blogs posted, the students are gaining so much insight. Midland Park is so proud. We look forward to hearing about the memories when you return. Continue to be safe.

    Mr. Capuano

  12. How amazing to not only be there to learn and see history, but to be a part of it! The heritage of the Jewish people is paramount; they remember where they've been so they can know where they are going. I'm also sensing the same sentiment from your group leaders. To see the pictures of the past tours displayed so prominently and to read the words in your blog of how important all of your travelers have been (and are!) is wonderful. Years ago I watched this tour depart from Midland Park High School and I'm delighted to see our students back with you again. All of your students are lucky to have the ability to experience this trip; and I know they'll carry it with them always because they'll know where they're going because they know where they've been.

  13. CONGRATULATIONS Colleen Tambuscio and cohorts! The dedication ceremony appears to be an amazing event. You had a vision and with focus and persistence (Mrs. Tambuscio's specialties) you made it happen. What an outstanding learning experience on so many levels for all involved. Looking forward to hearing the details when you return.

    Ronnie Eisen
    SHIP Program Midland Park

  14. This is truly incredibly. It must have been amazing to walk through the place where the Wolf's escaped through. It is important to have permanent reminders like this.

  15. The memorial looks beautiful! I can't believe that a memorandum has been signed because of the trips from various classes. Now a museaum and memorial services will be made, making sure that the souls of the people who have died will never be forgotten.

  16. This has to be one of the most special days in a long history of special days associated with this program. I once again shared the blog in my World History classes and everyone was amazed at the story - both the historical account of the Wolf family and the current efforts of all those involved in making this memorial a reality. This is a terrific connection - between people and places throughout the world. Thank you for sharing this special time with all of us.

  17. The memorial looks great! Today will go down in history. I wish I could have witnessed the unveiling. I was interested in the placing of the rocks around the memorial. I didn't know it was a Jewish tradition. It reminded me of the ending scene of Schindler's List. We just finished the movie in class.

  18. The woods look just as creepy and dense as Mrs. Bauman described them. To this day, I will never know how the Wolf family lived with all that fear. I would be so scared all the time and I'm sure they were but somehow they were strong. It's inspiring to hear their story and now with the memorial to honor their memory.

  19. How utterly moving is this piece about the Memorial! This is a day you will never forget, nor the unwavering commitment to justice your teacher, Mrs. Tambuscio, lives by. I hope you realize from this particular experience the true nature of courage and doing what you know is right in your heart at all costs.
    Miss you all!
    Mrs. DePoto

  20. The clothesline with the pages of the book stretching across the forest...well I had to wipe tears away. How thoughtful to "bring along" all the HST Students who started the journey but couldn't make it back with this year's group. The entire day is a tribute to courage, never giving up and the dignity and respect that we all or dead.

  21. Project-based learning at it's finest!

  22. It's amazing to watch something like this ripple effect. You guys go to Germany and are making a huge difference. All the rewards that will come out of that project show how big of a difference we can make and how those differences can create a ripple of better things to come. The memorial was an incredible idea!

  23. I think it's really neat that they strung photos of past Holocaust Study Tour groups on a clothesline at the memorial. It shows they faces of those who have become greater experts on the subject of the Holocaust, and those who can pass on the stories and experiences of those who experienced the tragic event itself.

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  26. This memorial looks so beautiful in the pictures so I can't even imagine what it was like to be there in person. I am extremely happy that this was made. None of those people will be forgotten. The clothesline really stuck out to me. That is incredible that they strung those all around the forest.

  27. We were with you in spirit today! What an amazing day this must have been for all of you. You were a part of living History! The unveiling of the memorial must have been such a special moment and one I'm sure you will never forget. This day had been long awaited and I know a lot of work and fund raising was behind it by Mrs. Tambuscio. Kudos!!!

    I first heard of Otto Wolf and his famiy's hiding place in the woods by my daughter, Meredith, who went on the HST in '09. Such an incredible story and to know that this memorial is a direct result of this program is so impressive.

    Thank you Mrs. Tambuscio, Mr. Chang, Mrs.Bauman and Ms. Sussman for your dedication to this program. Your teachings, wisdom and passion for humankind have not only left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the students on this trip and past trips, but also all of us at home that have learned through your blog, your published book or your presentations.

    Stay safe!

    Joan McCann

  28. Toay's evets are so powerful. When the power resonates through a BLOG the way it does, I cannot even imagine what the experiences are like in person.

    Almost a year and one half ago, Mrs. Tambuscio came to me to ask for 50 copies of Salvage Pages for her Holocaust Studies classes. I thought I was just supporting a good teacher and the needs of her students. NEVER could I have realized the impact one text could have on so many students, and how many miles those texts would travel, two full trips now, including a visit to the dedication for Otto Wolf.

    The pictures of all of the students who have travelled before you must have been comforting. I see their names in the blog postings and know that they are thinking of you as well.

    None of this would have been possible without the focused efforts of one special woman, Mrs. T. The lesson to be learned here is the value persistance and fortitude. May you take that lesson with you the rest of your lives.

  29. I think that the memorial is so pretty, and that it is so great that we keep honoring those who had to struggle through the Holocaust. This was a great way to remember Otto and his family.

  30. I think the story of the nuns is great. It shows that there were some who were sympathetic to the Jews. Although the nuns might not have been able to do much to save the Jews, they were able to bury them. This respect for the Jews helps me understand that there might have been many that were sympathetic to the Jews but could not do anything to save them.

  31. There are events and people who change who we are and how we look at the world. This trip and Mrs. Tambuscio have opened your hearts and minds will forever be a part of who you are.

  32. This memorial is a true commemoration of the strength and will of all the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Although it represents a sliver of history during that time, it speaks volumes for all the Jewish people, who relied on their personal strength, faith, and will to do what they could to hold onto their dignity even in the most undignified times.

  33. This memorial is a wonderful way to celebrate the memory of Otto Wolf and his family for generations to come. It is so inspiring to see all the people who came out to help commemorate this moment with you all. I am so proud of everyone because your efforts have ensured that Otto and his family will never be forgotten.

  34. I am so happy and proud that my classmates and teacher got to be part of such a wonderful and moving gesture. This family and what they stand for cannot be forgotten and with this memorial they won't be.

  35. What a special tribute for the memory of this place. This has got to be such a proud moment for all of you. None of what has happened should be forgotten.

  36. So cool that you all got to be a part of history in such a special way!

    Emily Curran