Auschwitz – Diversity Project

I’m going to occasionally print something different.

The McLean County Diversity Project was started in 2002.  This year 23 students were chosen to participate, they range from 6th to 12th grade.  See the Project website here:  http://mcleancountydiversity.org/Jeff_Schwartz.html

Last summer the group traveled to Auschwitz/Birkenau.  The group spent months studying and preparing for the trip.  An Auschwitz survivor served as their tour guide:  Eva Kor

Every Sunday the Diversity Project sends an email newsletter.  A short report from one of the participants has been included since they returned.  These students will never forget what they witnessed.  I hope by reading their essays you will see history through their eyes.

These essays are reprinted with the permission of the Diversity Project.  I was given two rules:  Only the first name of the student will be used and No Comments Will be Allowed.

___________________________________

By:  Kavya, Veteran Scholar
McLean County Diversity Project

.

“600 words or less” was the parameter I was given to express my experiences at the deadliest concentration camp in the world.
 .
For the first time in my high school career I longed for more space to write. 600 words would not suffice for all the lessons my visit to Poland has taught me because, frankly, they have made me see my life in new way.
 .

However, this got me thinking: What if I were told to describe my Auschwitz experience in one word?

 .
People told us the night before leaving for Auschwitz that we needed to prepare ourselves for what we will be experiencing over the next three days. To be honest, I thought I could handle it. I thought I was prepared enough for what would come the following days. However, as soon as Eva Kor stood on the selection platform – where she was ripped from her family – and began reading a letter to her parents that she wrote, I felt a wave of emotions hit me.
 .
I was sorrowful for Eva because she lost her family, angry because how could anyone witness this and be okay with it, and grateful for having such a loving family in America.
 .
At the selection platform I learned that we take so much for granted in our country because we don’t understand how it is to live without our basic rights.
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Little did I know at that moment, my own journey through Auschwitz had only just begun.
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My most distinct memory of the camps is of the Gas Chamber. Even now, I close my eyes and can imagine myself standing in the middle of the room thinking to myself how thousands of people lost their lives in that exact spot. I can imagine myself examining the scratches on the walls left by victims as a last attempt to escape. I can imagine myself exiting the gas chamber thinking how I was lucky to leave unlike so many people who never got the chance.
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To this day I still cannot imagine what life would have been like in the camps. Even though we got the opportunity to tour through the barracks and camps with an Auschwitz survivor, I cannot fathom living in such an oppressed environment – fearing for my life every minute.
 .
After experiencing Auschwitz I was amazed by the true grit and willpower the survivors must have had. Living life every day not knowing if you’d eat for another day or two would be strenuous. I was inspired by this to not complain anymore – to the best of my abilities at least. No matter what grade I get on a test or if I spill water on my new jeans, I will be grateful for the freedoms I live with.
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In America we are very sheltered and it wasn’t until Auschwitz where we were placed outside our comfort zones that I realized that there are so many things we take for granted.
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My journey at Auschwitz showed me humanity’s cruelest side that I hope we will never see again.
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Auschwitz is an event in human history we should never forget or repeat and for me, personally, I don’t think I will be forgetting any of the horrible remnants of the camp.
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If I had to choose one word to describe my experience I’d say ‘grateful’.
 .
Auschwitz has just reminded me that we need to be indebted to the opportunities in this country which we should work towards never losing.

 

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