Editor’s note: Writer Annabelle Webb is a senior from Henderson, North Carolina, who is double majoring in history and political science, with a minor in education. Annabelle is also a Carolina Social Influencer.
Not many people can say they’ve visited many of the historical sites of the Holocaust in Poland with their favorite Carolina professor. However, I am fortunate enough to be one of the few who can. Here’s a glimpse into my experience in Poland learning about memorialization, contextualization and the history of the Holocaust.
Since around fifth grade, I’ve studied the Holocaust. I read many diaries, watched documentaries, visited museums and met survivors. My high school had no class specifically about the Holocaust, so I often studied in my free time. When I got to Carolina, I knew I wanted to take a class about Jewish history and the Holocaust. At the end of my first year, I saw a study abroad opportunity to Poland to visit monuments and camps. I missed the deadline and I was pretty bummed.
I was lucky enough to take associate professor Karen Auerbach’s class on ancient to modern Jewish history called History 153: From the Bible to Broadway: Jewish History to Modern Times. Auerbach mentioned that she was teaching classes in Poland through Carolina regarding monuments and memorialization of the country’s history. I loved my time with Professor Auerbach (Hi, I hope you’re reading this) and my classmates in those classes, so I applied for the study abroad excursion.
My trip to Poland was a once–in–a–lifetime opportunity. I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting many different sites of the Holocaust — not only my dream, but that of my mother. As a result of the trip, I declared a history minor and then quickly declared an U.S. history major. I have continued to take classes with professor Auerbach, including two classes with her this semester.
If you have access to studying abroad and it’s something that’s in your interest, I would highly recommend going! I started my trip without a history degree and now I’m a history major, and I potentially want to teach history after college.
Here’s a basic timeline of things we did (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things):
We went to many different local museums to learn about Krakow’s history.
We toured Nowa Huta, a small community formed during the Communist era centered on the steel industry.
We were assigned to watch “Schindler’s List,” and within the same week visited Płaszów (the labor camp) and Schindler’s factory.
After a few visits, we relocated to Kazimierz, the area of a local Jewish community.
We went to Auschwitz-Birkenau as well as Oszpicin, the city in which Auschwitz resided.
2. On the way to Warsaw
We stopped in cities such as Tarnów, Belzec, Zamość and Lublin.
Within these stops, we visited the camps at Belzec and Majdanek.
Within our two weeks in Warsaw, the class visited a plethora of museums and monuments.
In our last trip to concentration camps, we visited Treblinka. I was honored to present the story of a survivor while I stood on planks that represent the train tracks..
The class took a visit to Jedwabne and studied the massacre that occurred there.
We concluded our time in Poland at the Jewish Cultural Festival by attending workshops and concerts throughout Kazimierz.