Eighteen Wagner College students, parents and faculty spent eight very meaningful days in four cities in Germany and Poland this spring as part of an Expanding Your Horizons trip. The trip’s theme was “Confronting the Nazi Past.” Watch a video presentation of the trip:
Our journey to Berlin, Warsaw, Auschwitz and Krakow included guided museum visits, walking tours, train travel and meetings with community leaders and youth. The tour began in Berlin at the memorial to the infamous bonfire where German students at Humboldt University of Berlin burned 20,000 books that were considered immoral or “un-German.” Students also explored the Topography of Terror museum (on the former site of Gestapo and SS headquarters), the Neue Synagogue (completed in 1866), the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, where they met CEO Rabbi Josh Spinner. Highlights of our engagement with Holocaust sites included Warsaw’s Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, the mass grave at Warsaw’s Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery, the new Polin: Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and, in Krakow, listening to Mirosława Gruszczyńska, a designated “Righteous Gentile Among the Nations,” whose family sheltered 15-year-old Anna Allerhand during the Holocaust. Entering the barracks and the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau, a damp and cold site of destruction, was the culminating and haunting moment. The final stop involved speaking with Holocaust survivors and Polish-Jewish youth at the Jewish Community Center of Krakow’s Friday night (Shabbat) dinner.
Upon their return, our students wrote research papers on topics ranging from Heinrich Himmler to Jewish resistance and Holocaust education today. To read one student’s reflections on the trip, visit this Web page.
In addition, photos from these moving sites became part of an exhibition, “Tragedy and Resilience: Holocaust Survivors of Staten Island,” on display in the Horrmann Library’s Spotlight Gallery in April and the Berkinow Jewish Community Center of Staten Island’s Café Europa on June 14. Read Kathryn Carse’s story about the exhibition for the Staten Island Advance.
The visit and exhibit are part of the work of the new Wagner College Holocaust Education and Programming Center. For more information, please email Prof. Lori Weintrob, and watch this video: