Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Unforgettable Experience

           It has taken me quit some time to write my final blog, I have done a lot of reflecting on my experience in Poland and finally have gathered all my thoughts. Traveling to Poland for a spring break is not what you usually hear, you usually hear about college students going to sunny paradises like Cancun or Punta Cana. However, contrary to popular belief I would not have wanted to be in any other place for spring break but Poland. My experience of visiting the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau are never going to be forgotten. Seeing the barracks, the exhibits, the monuments, the ruins of gas chambers and the overall camps are unforgettable moments due to their historical importance. It was an honor being able to travel to these locations and I will always hold it dear to my heart. Kind of a strange thing to say? I know right, but after learning things you’ve never known about the Holocaust and then being able to travel to this location of devastation you too would at first be at a lost of words and then greatly appreciate your own existence.
            It is insane that six million people were killed but we cannot forget about their individual personalities or identities since each person had their own life and loved ones prior to this genocide. I was astonished with the number six million, but then through each exhibit I saw their individual photographs, saw their belongings and heard their individual stories. Each person was different from one another but all sadly shared the same faith. 

Just a few children that were lost due to this tragic event.

           I related this to our last discussion with Father Manfred when he told us how important it was not to categorize people, not to be like Hitler or his followers who categorized the Jews and persecuted them. This may seem like an impossible task since many people, including myself usually do categorize people, we make stereotypes, we say hurtful things to one another or we never give a person the benefit of the doubt. This brings us to another important lesson that I learned from Father Manfred, he discussed human dignity with us. He said many people ask where was God during the Shoah, but he argues the real question is where was human dignity during the Shoah? Where was the respect for human life? He continued this discussion by highlighting how every person was made from God, how every person has good as well as evil in them. However, its up to us whether we want to be a good or bad person. Its difficult to understand this concept and took me a while to reflect on my own personality and past actions. But I came to the result that I want to better myself by being that good person, by being a good son, brother, friend and student. I want to surround myself with others who have this goal of being the best that they can be and I’m glad I was surrounded by my Poland classmates since I consider them all genuine people.

            I leave these horrific places with a better understanding, not about why or how it all happened since its impossible to know exactly why all this occurred. However, I leave with hope, hope that nothing like this ever occurs, hope in every single being, hope in God and hope in myself. I also leave with the commitment of not being a bystander to unfair treatment of others and with the responsibility of educating others that are not familiar with the Holocaust. Prior to this experience, I was a student and now I am a witness. I reread my first blog post and am glad to say that I have accomplished all of Sister Mary’s four dimensions. It was a difficult week of seeing the ruins of the Holocaust but I walked away with a whole new perspective of life and human dignity. I was educated on such a tragic time in history, I grew close to classmates and learned a lot about myself. I would not have traded this experience with anything else, thank you to my incredible classmates and my two wonderful professors that were there every step of the way on this unforgettable journey.


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