Centre students travel to Holocaust sites with student leadership program
RELEASED: June 22, 2006
DANVILLE, KY—Ten Centre College students have recently returned home from an emotionally overpowering visit to some of the major sites of the Nazi Holocaust. The group traveled to Poland as part of the March of Remembrance and Hope (MRH), an international program that educates youth about the Holocaust.
The Centre contingent was part of a group of roughly 1,000 students from all over the world who participated in this year's MRH, which has been held every other year since 2000. The students participated in a Holocaust symposium in Newark, N.J., before flying to Poland, where they traveled by bus to various Holocaust-related sites, including the once-thriving Jewish cultural centers in Warsaw and Krakow, as well as the former death camps themselves.
The Centre students' participation in MRH was underwritten in large part by the generosity of Lexington businessman Joseph W. Kelly, president of Columbia Gas of Kentucky, who donated $10,000 to the Centre group. The College also helped to defray the expense with a stipend.
Beth Glazier-McDonald, Stodghill Professor of Religion, who accompanied the group, called it "a transformative experience, a firsthand look at human potential—both for horror and for good."
Holocaust survivor Sylvia Ruth Gutmann, who lost both her parents at Auschwitz, rode on the bus along with the Centre students and a group of Canadian students. "I will forever be thankful for the amazing opportunity to interact with actual Holocaust survivors," says Sarah Cottrell, a rising sophomore from Williamsburg, Ky. "The stories of [survivors] Halina, Pinchas, Irving, and my dear close friend Sylvia Ruth Gutmann will forever be embedded deep within my heart and mind. The survivors' ability to find hope in the future was inspiring. I can't imagine escaping from such horrors and still having the capability to love and open my heart toward others."
"Perhaps the most overwhelming days were when we visited Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek," says Dayna Wood, a rising sophomore from Terrance Park, Ohio. "To visit the blocks, gas chambers, and crematoriums and see firsthand what the prisoners had to go through is something I'll never forget as long as I live. Also, having survivors tell us their stories really made a strong impact. It allowed us not just to hear numbers and facts regarding the Holocaust, but to hear actual stories from people who lived through such evil and hatred."
"At Majdanek we visited a block completely full of shoes taken from the prisoners," says Wood. "and for me this was the most overwhelming and difficult part of the trip. You could actually touch the shoes and smell the rotting leather. To think about the stories attached to each pair of shoes still upsets me. Now, I really hope other students will think about going on this journey, and I hope those of us who went can reach out to others."
"The opportunities to hear the stories of the survivors are dwindling," says Glazier-McDonald, who feels that one of the most important aspects of the MRH program is that it asks that the students who participate go on to become witnesses, to spread the word of their experiences to church groups and other organizations.
"I've had the chance to sample the worst of mankind and the luck to walk away from it, unlike those 60 years ago," says Josh Stevens, a rising sophomore from Flat Lick, Ky. "Now I have to spread the word and help people realize the horrors of the past so that they won't be repeated in the future."For more information of the March of Remembrance and Hope, visit the remembranceandhope.com Web site.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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