(WGHP) — It is the tragedy for which the phrase “never again” has become a rallying cry: “Never again should we see an entire people being exterminated.”
It’s almost impossible for those of us more than 75 years removed to really wrap our heads around the significance of the Holocaust. That’s why professors at Elon University believe you have to go there and walk the grounds where so many people, almost all of them Jews, took their last steps and last breaths to truly get a sense of it.
“I think any of us professors or students who go to these concentration camps, who come from a Jewish background, take one look at it and say, ‘That could have been me’,” said Elon professor Rich Landesberg who helps lead the trip each January. “You know that if you were born in a different place at a different time, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
About a third of the 30 students on this past trip to five camps were Jewish. Elon sophomore Sydney Abeshaus is one of them.
“I grew up Jewish…so I learned about the Holocaust in Sunday school and in the classroom, but I’ve never seen the sights. I’ve never seen it in person, and I’ve never really had an experience learning about the Holocaust where I’m with other Jewish students and non-Jewish students,” Abeshaus said.
She kept a diary of the trip, which is part of the requirements for the intense, three-week class Elon offers in January. She wrote about how touching some moments were.
“I was very overwhelmed,” she says about one concentration camp that had a list of many of the people who died there. “Everything I’ve been seeing in books and on paper…was in front of me, and that was a very overwhelming feeling.”
“We know we are stepping onto ground where thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million people died, and we know that under our feet are the last remains of some of those people,” Landesberg said. “It gets under your skin, into your bones, and it absolutely affects your soul as you go through it.”
He sees it when students go off by themselves without a professor or the group nearby to comment on what they’re seeing and feeling.
“Suddenly, you’re left without this preconceived notion, and you’re left to your thoughts,” Landesberg said. “And when you are in one of these places, and all you have is your thoughts and what’s going on internally, that changes everything.”
See some photos of the group on their trip in this edition of The Buckley Report.