Sunday, April 2, 2017

Moving On

Auschwitz I- Crematorium
Today is Sunday, April 2nd, 2017 and it has been fifteen days since I have returned from Poland with my classmates. The trip seems as if it was a year ago, but the time has passed so quickly. Reflecting on my time back at school, I am trying to remember daily about the experiences that I had in Poland. When I am stressed over school work or issues with friends, I try and remind myself of what I saw and what the victims of the Shoah went through. I understand that pain should never be compared, however, immersing yourself in the history of the Shoah for a whole week starts to put perspective on events going on in your life. 

I am trying to move on with my life and hold my trip in the back of my mind as a memory and a constant reminder of how bad the victims of the Shoah suffered. However, I must understand that the most important lesson to take away is to never let anything like this happen again; do not be a bystander. We were always taught about being a bystander in grade school. Lessons on how bullying can really hurt someone, but being a bystander could be just as bad was something we were taught from a young age. Learning about the Shoah is no different. The Shoah had its perpetrators, the Nazis, and they were responsible for the suffering of the victims, however, the bystanders, like America, stood there and watched this happen. There are factors that come into play with reasons why America did not step in, for example, America may not have known what was really happening in Poland. Aside from these factors, the bystanders did not help save the victims until most of them died. When thinking about bystanders during the Shoah, I am always brought back to a famous quote by Martin Niemoller: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.” This quote has shown up during the course of this semester during my deeper learning of the Shoah. I find this quote so powerful because it sums up the consequences of being a bystander. Not only should you avoid being a bystander for yourself, but for others as well. Stand up for others because it is the just thing to do.

During Dr. Procario-Foley’s lecture on our second day in Poland, she mentioned a quote by Emil Fakenheim. Fakenheim made the 614th Commandment: “Thou shall not grant Hitler a posthumous victory.” I believe this quote sums up everything I am trying to say in this reflection. In order to avoid granting Hitler a posthumous victory, life must go on and we see that in the lives of the victims after the Shoah. Many victims went on to college or remained in the work force. They had families and went back to a “normal” life, even though their experiences were lingering in the back of their minds. I carry Fakenheim’s quote with me, fifteen days post-Poland and I must remember to not grant Hitler a posthumous victory. I must go on with my life after returning from my trip. I must hold in the back of my mind my experiences studying abroad, however, I must take away the important lessons rather than dwell on the past and pity the suffering of the victims. Do not be mistaken, I will hold with me forever the pain and sympathy I felt for the victims. However, I respect the victims for their fight and want to remember this trip as a lesson and reminder during the hate that still occurs in this world today.


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