In front of a statue in
Budapest: University of
Michigan students: Alana
1110 Greenberg, Alex Rosenthal,
Rabbi Fully Eisenberger of
the U-M Jewish Resource
Center, Will Klibanow,
Natalie Perach, Emma
Soloway, Jaimee Wine and
brings Holocaust alive
for college students.
Special to the Jewish News
ver winter break, a group of stu-
dents, alumni and rabbis from
the University of Michigan and
the University of Pennsylvania embarked
on an incredible 10-day journey to Poland
and Hungary. The trip was partially spon-
sored by the U-M-based Jewish Resource
Center (JRC). The purpose of the trip was
to visit historical Holocaust sites and learn
about Jewish life and history in Europe
during the war.
The trip began in Warsaw, where we
toured the Jewish community and cem-
etery and visited the site of the Warsaw
Ghetto. We learned about the horrible
tragedies and uprisings that occurred
there. We even held a Havdalah service in
the spot of one of the final holdouts from
the uprising, an underground bunker
called Mila 18.
Every day of the trip began by touring
places that revolved around human suf-
fering. We visited the mass burial site of
hundreds of Tikochin Jews in the Lopohov
Forest, the death camps Treblinka and
Belzec, and the horrific concentration
camps Majdanek, Auschwitz and Birkenau.
We ended each day on a positive note by
experiencing Jewish life and culture as it is
today in Europe.
We visited several newly renovated
synagogues throughout Poland, bringing
life back into them with song and dance.
We all came together to celebrate Shabbat
with the Jewish communities that still
exist in Europe today, dining and singing
songs at a kosher restaurant in Poland and
a Jewish community center in Hungary.
Rabbi Fully Eisenberger, JRC director, was
able to lighten up the trip with his jovial
personality and ability to bring laughter
and humor into an intense situation.
We traveled by bus throughout Europe
to explore many old towns that once were
brimming with Jewish life. What remains
today are mostly museums and unmarked
cemeteries. One must really look hard to
find evidence of the Jewish people that
once populated the Polish community.
Throughout the trip, we had the oppor-
tunity to speak with many locals and hear
their stories about the Holocaust. We met
a non-Jewish man in Wodzislaw, Poland,
who shared a story with us about witness-
ing his childhood friend being marched
into a field and shot dead when they were
only 5 years old. Since then, the man has
devoted a room in his house to document
the history of the Jews of the town and for
collecting Nazi and war memorabilia. We
also had the opportunity to meet a non-
Jewish woman whose father was killed for
hiding Jews in their house during the war
and saving their lives. The woman shared
her story of visiting Israel and finally
reuniting with her Jewish friend 20 years
after the war.
Jaimee Wine, a U-M master's of social
work candidate, said, "Although history
books painted a picture of the Holocaust,
stepping foot on the soil of such hatred
and social injustices recreated the reality
of Poland during the war. Unfortunately,
Student group at Birkenau
anti-Semitism is still very prevalent in
"Interestingly enough, Poles are recently
being told they are Jewish. These individu-
als are experiencing difficulty in their
friendships and within their community.
My hope for these Jewish people is to raise
their children Jewish and revitalize the
downward and oppressed Jewish commu-
nity in Poland."
New Year's Eve was a night to remem-
ber. Thirty-four of us walked slowly into
Treblinka, winding through its stone path
of terror, each grasping a single burning
candle in the frigid air. More than 870,000
murders in 10 months occurred there.
A student recalls the chilling night in
the trip's blog."As we sang the haunting
Jewish anthem, yizkerem, in memory of
our slaughtered family, the clock struck
midnight lighting up the sky with the
loud, booming sound from the cheap
fireworks set off in the Polish countryside.
And as we stood at a large slab of stone, a
memorial at the entrance of Treblinka, our
communal voice began to crescendo with
emotion, and World War II literally came
to life around us.
"The fireworks explosions, a literal car-
bon copy of the gunshot sounds that had
traveled for miles through the surround-
ing forests. And the fireworks themselves,
lighting up the sky for over half an hour
vaulted us back to the Allied bombing
raids of 1943 in this small Polish village.
We spent nearly two hours within the
Treblinka camp. And that was just the
first 10 minutes. In what will be a recur-
ring image of our trip, we walked out of
Treblinka, an opportunity to exit shared
with only 70 souls in the history of the
Roots on page
April 5 • 2012