I’m a student at UVic, but I grew up in White Rock.
I was one of 20 students involved in the first year of the I-Witness Holocaust Field School Project offered by the Germanic Studies faculty at the University of Victoria.
The goal of this program was to involve our group in an experiential learning effort to study how the Holocaust has been memorialized in Central Europe through discussion and visits to memorials.
The topics we discussed were extensive: how memorialization has changed through the years, especially after the Soviet Union fell; how different people memorialize, for example, the Soviet’s style versus the West German style; and how the concentration of feelings of “otherness” leads to hatred, discrimination and genocide. We also discussed the experience of particular groups who were victimized during the Holocaust.
We spent three weeks travelling through Berlin, Krakow and Vienna learning about the various memorials, monuments and remembrance efforts taking place. We visited well-known memorials, such as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and several concentration camps. But the smaller memorials were not neglected.
We were extremely impressed by the work of Barbara Kintaert in Vienna and her struggle against the reluctance of her neighbours to commemorate the past, and we were curious every time we found a stumbling stone: small blocks placed into the ground outside the residences of deported Jews.
Our class was lucky enough to work with young Europeans who were interested in the same topics.
The most rewarding part of our experience was the discussions we had after we visited each site.
Our different academic backgrounds and world knowledge gave us many points of view and expertise on different subjects.
Many ideas, theories, and questions were presented, which I had never considered.
These discussions opened my mind; I left the class session thinking deeply every day.
I know I have grown from this experience in many ways.
The feelings and deep questions that our visits to these memorials engendered will not be forgotten.
Sarah Prusinowski, Victoria