Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Voice of Conscience

Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times

Beautiful Souls is a book from Eyal Press which examines, through true stories, what makes a person stand up to evil. 

The author discusses the power of an “inner directed” personality.  An individual with an inner directed personality, doesn’t care or worry what his peers or fellow critics think of him, he only needs to be true to himself.  Because these individuals do not need the community to feel fulfilled, they are able to stand up against their community.  The author examines individuals who stood up and said “No”, from WWII, the Serb -Croatian War, the Palestinian Israeli conflict, and a whistle blowing financial advisor from a business gone corrupt. 

Even though these individuals stood up for what was right, they end up ostracized from their communities.  Each was asked if they could would they do it again given what they had lost as a result.  Each said they would absolutely do it again, because it was the right thing to do. 

Did Hitler set out to be a world leader?  What were his beginnings? 

Hitler wanted to be an artist, but when he applied to art school in Vienna, he was not accepted.  He moved to Munich to be part of the artistic community.  He joined the Thule political party, where he was accepted only because the leaders thought they would use him as a tool and a spy for other organizations.  The leaders of the Thule party asked Hitler to infiltrate the Workers Party, (Communists) as they felt that the Workers Party was a threat to their group  Hitler reported back that the Workers Party held similar anti-semitic beliefs as the Thule Party, and were not a threat.  The Thule party guided Hitler to become the leader of the Workers Party, teaching him how to speak, how to lead, how to use people and propaganda, and how to deliver a message.  In short, how to be the Hitler we all remember.

I don’t believe Hitler or the Nazis set out to rule the world in the beginning.  First he wanted to be a voice and a leader for his party, then for the country.  As his hatred grew and his popularity rose, he thought he would give his people more and more of what they wanted-  more land, annex Czechoslovakia and Austria, and fewer Jews in Germany.

Each step of the way was a chance for the Germans and the world to stand up and say NO.  Each step Hitler took successfully without the people or the world saying “No this is not OK”, gave Hitler more and more power and confidence to do more, take more, and become more evil. 

Julie Blaugher, MWW Participant

The Power of Oral History

MWW Student Participant Ashley Davis explains how a Holocaust Survivor's story makes it all seem real. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What Happened in Building X

We toured the Dachau Concentration Camp which was the first concentration camp in the large system of concentration and extermination camps Hitler and the Nazis set up.  It had originally been a munitions storage facility.

We followed the steps of the former prisoners- walked through the gate, stopped where they turned in all of their possessions, including clothes, and got the hair all over their body crudely and cruelly shaved.

We saw where the prisoners “lived”. We stood where the prisoners stood in roll call twice daily.  We learned the type of work detail, and abuse the prisoners were subjected to, and the watery soup they were given to eat.  We saw the cramped barracks and imagined the cold, heat, and discomfort of so many hurt and hungry prisoners.

Dachau was not a extermination camp however, late in the Nazi regime Building X was built.  Building X was so named to disguise the horror that it housed - the systematic killing and burning of small groups and individuals.   We walked through the entire building, following the condemned prisoners  steps.  First into the room to remove clothes, then the room where the clothes were disinfected, then into the room prior to the crematorium. I imagined the prisoners in that room - cold, scared, angry.  As I looked into the next room The Gas Chamber, I will never forget my feeling of dread.  I stepped a little closer so I could peer into the sparkling white room.  As I did, I felt a great wall of energy from the ceiling to the floor and on either side of me, warning me not to go any further.  Frightened, I quickly backed away from the door leading to the chamber and escaped outside.  I was amazed at the experience, and the force of the invisible energy.

I have never felt anything like that energy force before.  I will always remember Dachau and it’s victims. 

- Julie Blaugher, MWW Participant

Friday, July 13, 2012

Poem: After Dachau

Muffled — a bell tolls,
the vibrations stretch the seams between my ribs
inhalation is my blessing this morning.

My ears hear birds singing,
leaves in green dancing on outstretched

Humanity died a death here,
our bodies
mobile stars, we’re led through these gates,
appeased by an iron lie.
Our bodies were de-personned here
stripped of name, point of origin, profession, and power —
we were made disinfected hairless lab rats, fit for use.

Humanity died here —
placed in stripped suits, labeled and decorated for the simple knowledge needed to kill. Humanity died here.

We ran for bread and soup
and the least was made last.
For bread and watery soup.

At night, warm bodies cooled by dead bodies,
dead bodies stiff as wood turned kindling for the ovens.

Humanity died, Hear, Oh! Israel, the cries of the people —
let not the word of G-d go unheeded or unheard.

Humanity died here —
atone and be revived. Bring your prayers to the water
and bathe your sorrow and regret —
let it lift and be carried away with the stream.

Humanity died —
Hear, Oh Israel!
Our God is one and so are we.
Pray for us that we will be reconciled to the great soul of man.

Humanity died here —
But, Never Again!

Ieisha McIntyre, — MWW Participant

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why Take This Trip?

I decided to invest in this trip due to the amount of knowledge, experience, and friendships I made last year. I wished to build upon my understanding of the Holocaust and discover the beginnings of the Nazi party through experiences outside classroom walls. — Cindy Evans, MWW Participant

Poem: Contemplating Holocaust

I've often thought that were it me to be
held sacrifice for the vice of economy
to appease the God of currency
that not a victim would I be.
But, alas stand I
In Nuremberg and Munich,
where the Mad Dog was birthed
And Think
No they come for the teachers first.

I’ve thought, “I would resist and survive the challenge of the long walk. The crowded heat of cattle cars.
The endless weighting of life against life.
The rending of family,”
These would only shore up my resistance.
And Then the callouses on my foot from too much sight seeing, reminds me of my fragility.

I often think of my love,
for the underdog.
For whom I always route,
having been the underdog myself,
I’m familiar with this suit.

But, I’m routing for the underdog to win,
Defeat those privileged few.
So, am I any different then from those who yelled, “Die, Jew”?

I will always be the one who could not stand
but hold up their bare hand
to the cannon in defense of the other.
Knowing, I am one man in Tienanmen,
Knowing I am Malcolm X,
Knowing I am Harriet Tubman,
and would rather shot one who strove to go back
and save the forward moving few than allow one
to nestle in the bosom of mother oppression.

I think of times I’ve passed a man with a sign,
weighed the change in my pocket,
and moved on.

Where are the Mad Dogs now?
What sacrificial call is being heard?
Where in this world is the contemplation of Holocaust?

— Ieisha McIntyre, MWW Participant

A Walk Through Dachau

As I was walking through Dachau Concentration Camp, I couldn’t help but imagine the prisoners in every place we visited, every road we walked on, every room we stood in.  The feeling was overwhelming.  To think of us during that time, in there place, knowing our grandfathers would not have a chance, and out uncles, brothers, husbands, and fathers, the men we often see as strong, be in that hell.  Even to consider suicide as an option.  It’s hard to think about.  It’s even harder to learn about what those men at Dachau experienced, and were forced to go through.  I don’t  know how the families of the prisoners could bare it.  I guess they didn’t have much of a choice, all they could do was hope and pray and get through the day.  Everyone during that time was unbelievably strong and brave, even if they felt weak and scared.  I left the camp feeling humbled and with a heavy heart and mind.  --Ashley Gill, MWW Student Participant

Hitler's Table- Stashed in a Forgoten Hall

While on a tour of Munich we were introduced to the horrors of the Nazi party, Hitler, and the roles they played in turning Germany into a place of terror, destruction, and lies.  We stopped at many places throughout Munich and learned about their history and how they developed.  One place in particular was Hitler’s headquarters, which has now been transformed into a performing arts school.  What was so interesting was that in the back hallway stood a long, black, old-looking table.  At this table, Hitler signed the Munich Treaty.  I thought it was interesting when our guide explained that they kept this table as acknowledgement of the past, but decided not to display the table, to prevent power given to the piece.  This was an illuminating experience for me, because I believe if they had chosen to encase/display, or burn the table, It would have given it the power HItler meant everything he touched to have.  I like that the table was just placed in a hallway that many pass through as a constant reminder of what happened that one hopes no one ever forgets.     -Ashley Lopez, MWW Student Participant

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Tour Begins

We are off and running.  The adventures of our long trip over to Europe are still fresh in mind, but we hit the road first thing with a walking tour of Munich, focusing, of course, on the Third Reich, and how it got it’s beginnings in Munich.   Thank you to Milk and Honey Tours for the most memorable journey.  Our guide Michael expertly made the history come to life before our eyes.

In the afternoon we heard the very personal and private Holocaust stories from Max Mannheimer.  Sent to the concentration camp in Dachau when he was 23, Max and his brother were the only survivors in his family of 8.  Thank you Max for opening up yourself to us.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Get Ready to Blog

It's almost time to blog.  Get your writers mind ready cause we're expecting all participants to have your say.