“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” – Elie Wiesel

This trip has been so profound and moving on many different levels.  I am learning a lot about a topic that is am very passionate about it but I am also learning a lot about myself.  I think that both are equally important.

I had to take a bit of a break from blogging about my time here simply because it was becoming overwhelming.  I found that in the evenings, I did not want to rehash all the human atrocity that I was learning about.  I wanted to veg out and and fill my brain with junk!  Although I am passionate about studying the Holocaust this intensity at which we are learning here at the Museum really weighs on your heart and soul.  Vegging out with the others in the group or just my room mate has been a blessing.

On day three of our training we had a full day of activity and learning.  We started with the opportunity to view the 2nd Floor of the Permanent Exhibit.  The 2nd floor looks at many things but mostly the end of the war, what happens after, and those that made a choice to help rescue and save the Jews.  What we learn is that the end of the war is NOT the end of the story.

Before getting to the 2nd Floor I had the opportunity to go up to the 3rd floor again because I somehow missed a few very key items on that floor.  I don’t know how I missed them – I honestly think that I was just so emotionally spent that I somehow blocked it out.  Anyway – thanks to the amazing Kritsin Thompson – the woman who puts the Museum Fellowship together – she led me up to the 3rd floor and allowed me some time alone.  What I missed was the shoes.

I had no idea the effect these shoes would have on me.  Two years ago when I came down to the Museum for the Belfer Conference the shoes were not here.  There had been a break- in (if you can believe it) at museum where the shoes are on loan from and a few shoes were taken. Therefore the shoes were recalled for a bit.  This room is so so so powerful. There is just a whole new tone to this particular part of the exhibit. The room smells different…like old leather. It is there that the enormity of the event struck me. There are just so many – boys, girls, women’s, and men’s. There are sandals, boots, high heels, sneakers. Mostly it is a sea of black and brown – but occasionally your eye catches a glimpse of white or red. There is also an accompanying quote that really just floored me.

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This room is so powerful and moving.  This quote made me stop and think for a long time.  In case you can’t make it out – “We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.  We are the shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers from Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam, and because we are only made of fabric and leather and NOT of flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.” – Yiddish Poet – Moses Schulstein (1911 – 1981)

I mean – imagine – the fact that these were items, materials goods – not people – they survived. WOW. I never thought about it like that. The Nazi’s collected the shoes, hair, clothes, gold teeth from their victims and sent it all back to Berlin to be used toward the war effort. In other words – these good meant more and were more important than the people that owned them.  Just disgusting.

Following spending some time with the shoes I finally made my way down to the 2nd floor. Probably what I found to be the most powerful part of this floor was the Survivor Theater. This is a space where you have the opportunity to sit down and listen to survivor testimonies. I could have sat there all day and listened to the stories that these precious people shared. Incredible. My eyes and face were wet, for sure. After listening to these important words I made my way to the Hall of Remembrance.  The room was just about empty giving me to opportunity to light a few candles and reflect.  It is here where you can find Elie Wiesel’s quote that really resinates with me as I embark on this Fellowship journey.

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Next on our agenda for the day was a very interesting and helpful lesson on Americans and the Holocaust.  This was an amazingly thorough presentation that I know will help me to answer many questions that my students have.  The United States tends to like to identify themselves as the liberators of the Holocaust – yet – there is more to this story.  I am so looking forward to diving in to this topic with my kiddos this coming school year.

Another interesting lesson we we did this day was called: Oath and Opposition: Education Under the Third Reich.  As an educator – this is an obvious home run for me.  The lesson covers both teachers that stood up to the Nazi propaganda and of course those that followed it blindly.  It was a very interesting and moving lesson.  I will have so much information to bring back with me…

The last thing we did on day three was break up into our groups and work out our Out Reach Projects.  Our task for the year is to come up with an Out Reach Project for our community.  This, to me, is a daunting task.  There are about 1000 things that I want to do and I feel like my head is spinning!!  I had a couple ideas but I think I have narrowed it down to one.  My proposal is to do several nights over the school year where I invite parents and community members to come and have an opportunity to gain some Holocaust education.  I plan to accomplish this by using lesson plans, documentaries, and survivor testimony.  In the long run – I would like to eventually see it turn into an Adult Ed Holocaust and Genocide Studies class.  I am hoping that we have enough people in the community that will come and participate – I promise to offer lots of education, insight, knowledge, and snacks.  I plan to poll my community and see if there is any interest in the very near future.

After our program Laura and myself went for dinner.  We found a pretty great spot right on 15th called Georgia Brown’s.  They were offering Southern comfort food and I was happy to oblige.  First off – check out their sign – look at that sweet bee!!  It was obvious that I need to stop here.  I had an awesome grilled chicken salad that had blue cheese crumbles, roasted corn, and caramelized onions!! WOW – I took a bunch home to have for lunch the next day.  The roomie and I also split a carafe of Red Wine Sangria…it was delish!!  After a long day with heavy topics and lots of thinking – Georgia Brown’s was just what the doctor ordered.

I have to admit that even though I am emotionally shot – Washington DC is a fun city to explore.  I am happy that my room mate likes to walk everywhere because there is just so much to see.  Also I find that walking after our program is a good way to decompress and I am grateful for that.  Starting the day with a good run – although shorter that I’m used to –  has been a life saver.  The running has helped me clear my head and my soul.  Running through the city is so much fun!! I’ll be happy to get back to my longer runs…but for now this is perfect!

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I am sorry that I have to back-blog but it seems that I ran out of time while I was in DC.  I made it home yesterday and I’m still trying to recover.  I promise to fill you in on the last two day of my Fellowship training.  We learned and met some incredible people…can’t wait to introduce them to you!

Good night from Machias!!

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