Between July 2–July 9, 2018, Harrison Middle School teacher Daniel T. Shaner was able to attend a trip to study Holocaust sites in Poland with a group of other educators and students. The trip, sponsored and run by Classrooms Without Borders and funded by donations from individuals, families, and organizations from around the world, allowed 48 teachers and 25 students to accompany Holocaust survivor Howard Chandler and his daughter to various scenes from Howard's youth.
Immediately after landing in Warsaw, Poland, the group visited the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery, where nearly half a million people are buried in marked and mass unmarked graves. They then visited the Warsaw Ghetto, the site of a famous, but unsuccessful uprising against the German Army. They followed this at the extermination camp at Treblinka, which once saw hundreds of thousands of deaths, including Howard's mother and sister, but now looks like a nature park.
The group was able to visit Lublin, a town that integrates medieval and modern architecture, as well as the nearby concentration camp at Madjanek, which remains in almost the same state as it did when it was recaptured by the Soviet Army at the end of World War II. They then visited Howard's hometown of Starachowice, where Howard's ordeal in the Nazi camps began.
After traveling to Krakow, the group was able to visit the notorious Auschwitz and Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camps, in which over 1,100,000 Jewish people were murdered. Howard somehow survived both of these camps. Mr. Shaner and other members of the overwhelmed group marveled at his strength and courage even as their own were failing them.
Mr. Shaner reports that he came back from Poland a different person, with a new-found conviction to do whatever he can to help those who are left out by society. The message of hope and understanding gained from the trip meshes very well with the District's commitment to Rachel's Challenge, as both require each of us to seek ways that we can serve, and make life better, for those around us.