Alice Abroad: Reflections

I am happy to report a safe return trip from Poland. The last day was spent exploring Warsaw, including the Miele 18 memorial to the ghetto fighters and the Jewish cemetery, where all the original markers had been dessimated. There was a very touching memorial to the children lost in the Holocaust.

Warsaw was 90% destroyed in WWII — within weeks of the war ending in 1945. So the whole city has been built since 1945 — using photos of the original city. We in America cannot truly imagine that kind of loss and destruction. Let’s use the New Year to remember how lucky we are and make sure we use our resources to make the whole world a safer place.

Alice Abroad: Experiencing Belzec

December 25, 2011

I feel a little conflicted about posting an update on Christmas Day, but I will trust you to read this when it’s right for you. Yesterday we went to the most amazing memorial I’ve ever seen — at Belzec. Just a few short years ago, the site where over 600,000 Jews were killed over just 9 months time (that’s 2500 per day), people were seen regularly digging into the mass grave with shovels, hoping to find jewelry or other valuables on the corpses — there was no preservation or memorial in place. Then the USHMM and the Polish governnment partnered to create the most beautiful memorial on about 10 acres of the site. It rivals any memorial you’ve ever seen in the world!

This is one view of the Belzec memorial installation. This granite wall here is about 5 stories tall.





Alice Abroad: The Road from Chelmno

December 22, 2011

Today in Poland — long road trip to Chelmno, where 300,000 people died by being driven on “gas vans”. They were loaded naked into these vans, 60 at a time, and driven 4 km down a road while fumes were pumped into the van to kill them. There bodies were dumped in mass graves. They used 16 of these vans running constantly to murder that many people. It defies explanation.

The second part of the day, though, was much more upbeat — meeting with survivors who were all children during the Holocaust. They were awesome! I will tell more about them soon. Thanks again for following this journey!

Alice Abroad: Neighbors

Day 3 started with a long bus ride to the site of a horrible Pogrom in the small village of Jedwanbe. Only 3200 people lived here in 1941 — half were Jewish and half Christian. All neighbors in a small town. The Christian half rounded up all the Jews one day and forced them into a tiny church and set it on fire. Poles killed Poles. It wasn’t discovered for 40 years because they let the Nazis take the blame. A memorial was on the site for 40 years giving credit to the Nazis until research uncovered the shocking truth.

To read about this terrifying attack, check out the book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jebwadne, Poland. 

Alice Abroad: Development?

Day 2 in Poland – Tuesday – was a bus ride to Stutthof near Gdansk in northeast Poland. Some of the of the camp buildings were still standing — many others were marked with simple memorials. There was a gas chamber and crematorium. The day was cold but no snow on the ground. The emotions I felt while walking in the footsteps of so many tortured and brutalized souls are hard to describe, other than deep grief. The most puzzling aspect was the proximity of new housing to the camp where approx. 65,000 people perished. You could throw a stone from the back yard of one of these homes and hit the gas chambers.
We took a long train ride to Warsaw in the afternoon and I sat next to a Polish man who spoke good English and he said he had never visited any of the concentration camps — ever. He sad it was too painful. Really?

Alice Abroad: Arriving in Poland

Checking in from Gdansk, Poland — we arrived mid-day and it’s really cold and dreary. Gdansk is a beautiful and quaint little city with many scars from WWII and the Holocaust. We walked along the Wannsee River and saw many un-restored bombed out buildings. There is a charming memorial to the Kinder Transport in front of the train station. The mood of the group is still light-hearted as we prepare to start our trek to camp sites tomorrow morning at Stutthof and then board a train for a 4-hour trip to Warsaw.

Alice Abroad: Beginning Something New

This is Alice Murray. I’m President/CEO of the DHM/CET and on Sunday I depart for Poland for a 2 week adventure to Poland to visit the sites of more than 15 concentration camps. It is a trip planned by the SMU Human Rights department, with 20 of us traveling. You can follow our experiences by checking in daily to see my posts. I would love to see your thoughts and reactions. I will start right now by saying I have been very anxious and nervous about what to expect. I’ve been with the Museum for over 2 years now and the sadness sometimes overwhelms me. Yet what we will feel in the dead of winter walking in the steps of millions of souls who did not survive is still incomprehensible to me. Thank you for following my journey over the next 2 weeks. Peace.