Day 13 Amir and LauraMay 28, 2011
Today’s excursion was the most moving experience we have had in Europe. We visited the infamous Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp. This camp was the largest Nazi concentration and death camp in Europe from 1940-1945. We also had the opportunity to visit the Auschwitz Memorial Museum. While gaining further knowledge about the Holocaust, we realized that the entire situation was a result of the toxic leadership of Hitler. Toxic leadership is when someone who possesses great leadership skills, uses those skill for bad rather than good.
Before traveling to Europe I read many books on the Holocaust and researched endlessly. With that being said, I still was not prepared for the actual concentration camp. During the tour I had many flashbacks from reading " I have lived a thousand years". I tried over and over again to comprehend the amount of turmoil that existed in this infamous death camp. All of the readings and movies came to life in my eyes while on the tour. It was if we had traveled in time back to the 1940's and I was reliving the experience as a prisoner. I felt all the pain, hope, optimism and despair all at once. One of the hardest moments for me is when we walked into the room where all the hair was being preserved. At this point in time I went numb. I could not take anymore pictures, I could not speak, I could not move and I did not feel present in my own body. I thought of myself as a child and all of my loved ones and I pictured them being subjected to the cruel treatment that these innocent people had to go through. I casually turned my head as the tears rolled down my face, I saw my family in that room and my heart hurt for all of the innocent men, women and children. I kept asking myself how this could happen and how could so many soldiers with wives and children possibly end so many lives. I have been fighting to understand since leaving Auschwitz and I believe it is something that will never be understood. I believe that this trip to Auschwitz is a very important aspect of history and very important to leadership. It is important to be aware of the past to prevent the past from reoccurring in the future. This visit has definitely changed the way I look at life and the sense of entitlement that I sometimes have as a human. Seeing pictures of these people that have been abused mentally, physically and sometimes starved to death makes me more aware of my blessings. I will never forget the feeling that I felt today, it has humbled me and reminded me to be grateful for the life and freedom I have. - Amir
Today we visited Auschwitz Birkenau. I truly think that this is an experience that is impactful before, during, and after.Before we came to Europe our class worked to educate ourselves on the experiences of the Holocaust victims. Even though the film Schindler's list was enlightening, it is vastly different once you get to the actual site. At this point something that our tour guide said becomes relevant: "It is important that you think of this not as a museum, not as a site, but as a cemetery, first and foremost, it is a memorial of sorts. It is a place where you should maintain respect, and honor those who died during this tragedy." The facts, the figures, the personal property that we had seen and heard of did not have a full impact until you realized that it was not just a pair of shoes that belonged to one person. It was 40,000 pairs of shoes (only a minute fraction of the actual number) of 40,000 wives, husbands, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, best friends and neighbors. In leadership we often talk about roles, and how each of us fulfills at least 5 to 10 different roles. Something that I could not get out of my head as I was walking throughout the camps was the fact that each time one of the victims of the Holocaust was exterminated, so was a wife, a mother, a child, a soul that fulfilled so many different parts in so many different lives that one could never truly measure the ripples of a single death. The most difficult part was walking along the train tracks and realizing that I will never know what it is truly like to experience what these thousands of people went through. Even with all of these facts and figures, seeing all of the shoes, all of the clumps of human hair, and all of the barracks, I felt despair at realizing that I will never get it, but that I am extremely lucky that I ill not ever be in that situation. I will never know what it is like to try to fit 21 sleeping bodies into a horsestall, 7 to a platform. I wil never know what it is like to go to bed hearing screaming outside, or to have to build my own prison by hand. It doesn't seem fair in a way, that none of that pain can be diminished from the past, but the way I look at it is that I can do my best for the future. We have more people in virtual slavery today than we have everhad before, and we forget that some of these situations are happening in our very hometowns. I hope to be more aware in the future, and to continue to treat everyone ot only as if they are my equal, ut as if they are a gift to the future itself.