Learning through Doing

Our day yesterday was an incredible learning experience. We spent our morning in the preservation department of Auschwitz I. Our group was split in two, one half relocating replica suitcases, the other half covering original limestones that had inscriptions used to make copies of Nazi training manuals during the war.

Several of the buildings at Auschwitz I have been updated to accommodate temperature controlled facilities for preservation initiatives

I was in the group covering limestones, some of which weighed several hundred pounds. Some took all five in our group to lift a few inches so that we could tuck a cheese cloth-like material underneath. One limestone that really stood out had images of right vs. wrong for Nazi soldiers as to how they were to treat prisoners. It was a very enlightening experience, being able to handle these actual pieces that were used during the war. For an hour, I felt like a young, American Zahi Hawass. At the moment, we are waiting for permission from the museum to share photos from our service project, so stay tuned.

After our projects, we were given a personal tour from one of the art/preservation curators. He took us to see sculptures and paintings done by the prisoners during and after the war. One of the prisoners had done a series of 110 portraits of other prisoners in the camp. We were allowed to take photos, but as being part of a collection that is not public ally displayed, we have been asked not to share those photos.

In the afternoon, we were given a lecture by a curator and historian about resistance in the camps during the war. He told us about specific individuals who rose against the powers, broke rules, and, in some cases, paid the price for their actions. In many cases, the individuals he told us about survived the war.

We then travelled back to Kraków for the last two nights of our trip. Today we are back with our other tour guide, Gosia, who will be showing us one of the Jewish ghettos, the Schindler Factory Museum, and finishing our day with a Shabbat dinner at the Jewish Community Center.

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