It may be impossible to fully grasp the historic atrocities that occurred at Auschwitz during the Holocaust, to visit the quiet grounds and large brick buildings today and entirely comprehend the immeasurable cruelties that were carried out within. Yet, facing the front gate of the former concentration camp, standing alongside the railway that once led so many innocent victims to their untimely deaths, the tragedy of the grounds’ history and the importance of its historical preservation become unequivocal. During the July 2011 Amizade program in Poland, volunteers had the opportunity to see this unfortunate history with more clarity, as well as take part in efforts towards its preservation.

Cleaning Holocaust Victims' Shoes in Poland, July 2011

When Amizade volunteers traveled to Poland this July, they had the chance to take part in numerous endeavors to remember and preserve holocaust history. Volunteers improved the landscape of a Jewish cemetery by pulling weeds and making further property enhancements. They actually got to enter the barracks that once housed prisoners in Auschwitz and help make improvements to the facilities. One of the most profound volunteer experiences occurred when Amizade volunteers took part in a conservation project, cleaning the shoes of holocaust victims in an effort to preserve them as historical artifacts.Throughout their experience, volunteers were able to interact with and learn from locals affected by the history of the holocaust and dedicated to its remembrance.

Amizade volunteer, Lauren Fedewa, who worked at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. before traveling to Poland with Amizade in July said, “Taking what I already knew of the place and its history and then actually seeing it, made it all stick with me more.” Lauren noted the significance of volunteering to preserve Holocaust history, “It’s important because often the actual government doesn’t have the resources to preserve the history, and the memory needs to be maintained so that nothing like this can happen again.” Lauren, who will soon be beginning her first year of college, plans to stay involved with Holocaust remembrance by volunteering at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. again this coming spring.

Amizade programs in Poland are an excellent example of the combination of service and learning that is consistent with all Amizade programs. By visiting these sites where tragic events of the Holocaust took place and assisting with efforts to keep the memory of this history alive, volunteers are able to clarify and enhance their own knowledge on the subject, and carry this knowledge with them long after the program ends.

 

For more information on volunteering with Amizade in Poland, take a look at our upcoming open group volunteer programs available: here.