Emotionally Drained….but it’s so worth it.

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Here is something to think about.  No, really think about it.  What kind of choices do we make as individuals – and – who do those choices effect.

Let me tell you something, studying intensely about the Holocaust is no easy task.  I know that I am completely up for the challenge, but WOW…I am drained.  Yesterday, after our very full day – I felt like I went a couple rounds in the boxing ring with Rocky Marciano.  I really need to just sit back and decompress…I couldn’t write in my journal and I really did not wan to even talk about Holocaust.  All of that being said – I have learned so much and I am so grateful to be here learning it.

Monday started with an early morning run with my room mate.  We hit the roads around 6am and did just under a 3 mile loop.  It was hot and humid but it felt good to get out there and do something.  We got ready for the day and headed to the Museum.  We walked – and for some reason we got completely blown off course.  It was probably my fault…Laura and I get to talking and not paying attention and then we are going in the completely wrong direction.  A walk that should have only taken about 30 minutes ended up taking about an hour………..what the heck!  Also we couldn’t find a Starbucks (#firstworldproblem) for breakfast and morning coffee.  This instantly stressed me out because I was worried that I wouldn’t get a good protein based breakfast.  I asked a security guard outside of the Museum if there was a place nearby to get coffee and he directed us to the Museum Cafe.  I wasn’t expecting much….but I was so wrong! We hustled in and I got a egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel.  I knew I wouldn’t eat the bagel but the egg and cheese would be OK.  I didn’t realize, but they don’t sell meat at the cafe.  The lovely lady behind the counter told me that smoked salmon – I asked if she would sell me a portion and she was more than happy to!  WINNING!!  So I had an egg, a slice of cheese, and some smoked salmon – it was a great breakfast!!  Nothing to worry about – I had an issue and I made it work!

Once settling into our classroom – one of the most intense days of studying started.  It was incredible and incredibly tough.  We started with exploring the 3rd floor of the Permanent Exhibit.  The 3rd floor covers the timer period of 1940 – 1945 and basically explains the “Final Solution.”  It is very hard to process – which essentially goes from rounding up the Jews to the mass murder of Jews.  The information is graphic because it was graphic.  It’s hard to look at and it’s hard to digest.  Mostly it’s really hard to stand there and think that people did these to other people.  That someone made a choice to stand by and watch what was happening and not do anything.  That someone made a choice to turn their neighbor in for something that was against the loyalty the government was demanding.  Very scary thoughts and very scary times.

The 3rd floor also looks at something that I think is an incredibly important topic and one that I cover with my students – the Holocaust was not just carried out by Nazis.  There were many collaborators that participated and/or assisted in the mass destruction of European Jews.  We tend to think that this was only a Nazi run operation.  The truth is that in some parts of Europe local people, armies, police forces, etc were willing to help with round-ups, deportations, and in the earlier stages – even the actual killings.

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This is a particularly graphic video that shows the extent of some of the collaboration that took place by non-Nazi perpetrators.  I actually stood and watched this video at least twice.  It was hard to watch but really resonated with me.

After a debriefing of the 3rd floor we had lunch.  Lunch was another issue for me.  I realized that I had forgotten my tuna back at the hotel.  Again, I freaked out and worried that I wasn’t going to have any options.  But the Museum proved flank steak on a bed of lettuce – winning!! So…I guess this is a lesson of trusting the process and realizing that I can really make anything work.

After lunch we had some time to go through another exhibit that really fascinates me – Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust.  This exhibit is mind blowing.  It examines the choices people made to either help or hinder the Jews during the Reich’s regime.  Imagine – being friends with someone one day and the next they are looting your home or harassing you and your family.  To me it’s just so terrible to see the lengths at which people went to prove their loyalty to Hitler and the Nazi regime.  On the other hand the exhibit does point out some people that tried to help the Jews by saving some of their belongings and returning them to family members after the war.  One part of the exhibit that particularly gets me is listening to Survivor testimony.  It’s heartbreaking to listen to them recount how people that they knew and trusted put them in a terrible spot.  So so so sad what we are capable of doing to each other.

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There are letters written by Jewish people living in Europe to Americans.  In some cases they found people with the same last name in the phonebook and wrote to them asking for sponsorship to come to America to escape what was happening to them in Europe.  In some cases the Americans were happy to help – but wrote back that they could not financially support them in anyway.  (Keep in mind that when these letters were written around 1938 – America was going through the Great Depression.

We finally wrapped up the day with an incredible guest speaker – Dr. James Waller.  He is the Cohen Endowed Chair of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College.  He wrote a book called Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing.  As you can imagine – it was a pretty heavy talk.  Basically his theory is that anyone is capable of committing genocide because they make a choice to do it or participate.  Again…a heavy topic and a little bit uncomfortable – but a necessary conversation.

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Another intense thought provoking message.  What do you think??

Honestly – once Monday was over – I needed a break.  A small group of us went out for dinner close to the hotel and then Laura and I walked down to Whole Foods and picked up a few things and headed back to the hotel.  I really needed to decompress with some mindless activity.  I did not even want to journal.  I scrolled through Facebook and went to bed!

Thank goodness – today was a lot less heavy than yesterday.  I’m tired, so I will fill you in on that tomorrow.  What I have taken away from this trip so far is a couple of things – 1. The choices that we make every day are important.  We need to understand and think about what we are doing. 2. I am capable of following my plan and being successful even if I don’t have everything I need.  I can do this! 3. I miss my hubby and my kiddos – A LOT.

That’s a wrap from our Nation’s Capital for tonight.  I have more to tell you – but I need a good nights sleep!  Thanks for reading!!

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