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Classrooms Without Borders

What our participants have to say...

The most intense ideas or experiences from Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland are impossible to choose because traveling with a Holocaust survivor and doing the things planned was one of the most interesting experiences of my life. I’d say that, if I had to choose, the most moving experiences would be between hearing Howard Chancellor’s stories in the barracks of Birkenau, bonding with him and the others, learning all I could from Avi and the Reform Shabbat service at the Galicia Museum with a Reform congregation that was the only one in Krakow only two years old. After this experience,  I can’t understand how Holocaust education can happen without going to the sites. I look back and my whole Holocaust education in school seemed black and white, two dimensional. There is something to be said about seeing that wild flowers grow in concentration camps after all that had happened. It is incredibly important to view the amount of human hair and collection of prosthetic legs and crutches that are exhibited behind glass at Auschwitz and to experience the human connection felt from the group hugs and sharing these moments together with everyone.

Jesse Blank / Student / Winchester Thurston Student
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Visiting Majdanek made something "click" in my head. Until I was actually there, where so many people had their lives stolen from them, it didn't really click that the Holocaust was not just an assault on Jewish people, but an assault on humanity.

Ross Tedder / Student / Winchester Thurston School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

In a classroom, the victims of the Holocaust are statistics. In Poland, where they lived and died, they are humans. Their faces line the walls, their ashes pile under a brilliant blue sky, their empty shoes fill rooms. I continue to struggle with how to remember these people, as individuals and not meaningless numbers, and the best way I can come up with is to be more compassionate and empathetic towards everyone I encounter.

Kate Chaillet / Student / Winchester Thurston School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Through Holocaust education, I learned the value of tolerance and diversity... I learned that hope can be found in the darkest places, ­­hope can be found even when all humanity seems to be lost. I also learned
the importance of forgiveness and the power of education.

Samantha Smith / Student
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Having Howard there, telling his story, allowed for us to more easily relate to the information. Howard made it real. Howard provided a look at the Holocaust that you can't get from books, pictures, video and primary sources. The personal connection is something that cannot be learned in the classroom.

Jake Zirkle / Student / Washington Jefferson University
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

One thought that really stuck with me was that the Holocaust didn't just happen to the Jews. It happened to the whole world. I think many people ignore the Holocaust because they feel disconnected to what happened. Because they aren't Jewish, the Holocaust doesn't affect them. But in reality more than just the Jews were targeted. While the Jews make up the majority of the people killed, so many others were hurt too. Catholics, gypsies, the mentally and physically disabled, and even certain poles were killed in death camps. So if i could bring back one idea, it would be that everyone was affected but the Holocaust, not just one specific group of people.

Dylan Groff / Student / Shady Side Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

For me, learning about the Holocaust and seeing the Holocaust sites are two different concepts. In some regard, learning and reading allows you to have a sense of self-fulfillment that you understand what you read, but when you visually encounter these atrocities, this all changes...I expected to only learn, but we did so much more. We commemorated, we remembered, and we celebrated the lives of those who perished in the Holocaust. We prayed, we broke bread with total strangers, and by the end, it was a truly close-knit community.

Blake Humphrey / Student / Wheeling Park High School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I was able to learn about the 'individual' during this trip. Usually in classrooms only the number of victims is focused upon. The numbers that are used to describe the victims are so large that the human mind cannot comprehend what is actually being talked about. Breaking those numbers down to individuals and families show how truly awful this entire regime was.

Isaac Estep / Student / Wheeling, WV
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

This trip has given me the knowledge to begin to formulate questions, which are the first steps toward understanding.

Stephen Board / Student
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

Honestly, this trip has taught me to be a better human being. Just by standing in a deserted death camp, I could picture in my mind the horrific events that took place in the same exact spot. I never want that to happen again. If I can use my experience in my everyday life to be a better person, then I know I learned something from this trip. I will be telling anyone who asks about my trip, if they have the chance, to go see it for themselves. In the meantime, I will try to recreate what I saw through my words to the best of my ability.

Brooke Bleifus-Hennen / Student / Wheeling, WV
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I think the trip honestly changed me as a person. I think it taught me a lot about tolerance and also cultural relativism (with the current polish population) and a lot about the role of a bystander... I feel I learned those lessons enough to implement them in my practices and values as well as to teach others about them, talk about what I see and what I know. 

Riley Bresnahan / Student / Wheeling, WV
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I never thought of Poland as a country with green trees or pretty, blue waters, I always saw it as sort of a death symbol in black and white photographs. I have never been more shocked in my life. Now I know the beauties of Poland. It was truly amazing. One moment, we would be in the heart of the city and people would be laughing. Then the tone would change when just down the road we entered a death camp. I never thought it was possible for a human to go through almost every emotion possible, but it can happen. I feel like over this trip I bonded with such a great group of individuals and I will cherish this friendships for my lifetime.

Jordan Riggs / Student / Wheeling, WV
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Books, classes, and teachers are all limited with their resources and information, but seeing the chambers, buildings, or barbed wire provides you with a new sense of understanding that cannot ever be achieved just through reading a chapter or two in your history book.

Amaris Gonzalez / Student / Pittsburgh
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

One thing I learned from this trip is that, in order to learn about the holocaust, you have to focus on the individuals. Trying to think about 6 million of anything is too hard. It's even hard to picture one hundred things. Learning about the Holocaust in terms of the 6 million doesn't allow you to relate personally to what took place and thus, it becomes just another history lesson. By focusing on an individual, you can really connect to what happened. This way, the Holocaust becomes ingrained in you. It becomes a part of who you are.

Dylan Groff / Student / Shady Side Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland