Written by Chelsea Pasahow, Friends Central High School (OU 2009)
Today the Operation Understanding group went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. It was a very emotional experience for both the African-American and Jewish OU’ers. Both groups understood and both were able to relate to the extermination that occurred during the Hitler Reich. Although the African-American participant’s ancestors were not a huge target during World War II, they were still able to understand the devastation that the Jews went through because of the oppression their ancestors faced during the times of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Because of this, the two groups were able to see eye to eye and both experience the same types of emotions.
While looking at a video of the different tactics used for the liberation of various camps, I began to cry because of the dehumanizing tactics used to bury the dead prisoners. Countries such as Russia, Britain, and the United States had to bury the dead as quick as they could in order to stop further progression of deadly diseases such as Typhus. While I watched tractors shovel numerous sick and skinny dead bodies into ditches, Angie, an African-American participant grabbed me by the back and helped to comfort me because she was able to recognize the sadness in my eyes. We both held each other and wiped away each other’s tears as we both witnessed the atrocities. That day I realized that we both had differences but we are all human and both share the same want of justice for all.
Written by Anjerie Yohn, George Washington High School (OU 2009)
Going through the museum, I felt a range of emotions. From sadness to disgust and from anger to awe, I learned a lot of new things today. Although I am not a Jewish, I felt great sympathy for the Jews and the hatred that was directed towards them. Looking through the exhibit I found many similarities between the mistreatment of Jews and African-Americans, whether it be the political cartoons depicting us as animals and savages, to the segregated signs and benches. Towards the end, there were several videos on the liberation of the concentration camps. I soon found myself next to Chelsea, a Jewish participant, and saw her tears. Knowing that we both were experiencing the same emotions I placed my hand on her back and comforted her, as we both watched the shocking images dance across the screen. At face value Chelsea and I appear very different, but at that moment we were one and the same. We were both human, and could recognize evil for it was. No matter what differences we appear to have, at heart we are all the same. I realized today that we should focus on these similarities, not highlight the differences, to create change in the world.