Narrative Strands

A piece of the barbed-wire fencing at Auschwitz. Photo by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

By Natalie Shure Your first thought is that it’s disgusting. Behind the glass, in a room-sized clump taller than anyone on Earth, is a mass of human hair weighing two tons and change. Back in 1945, when Auschwitz was liberated, the pile was splotched with colors like strawberry, platinum, ash, copper, chestnut, black and cocoa. [...]

Reflecting on Auschwitz: A Photo Essay with Words

Family photographs of prisoners inside the Sauna, or bathhouse, at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The display is meant to give the names back to  the victims of the camp.  Photo by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

Edited by Beth Cortez-Neavel The FASPE fellows spent two days at Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. We asked the group to share their thoughts.  Auschwitz On our first day at Auschwitz, white specks floated down from the sky, settling sometimes on the ground and other times on our clothes. I couldn’t help but imagine ash. Instead, the [...]

A Frog at Birkenau

Ruins of a barack at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Photo by Bogdan Mohora.

By Leslie Esbrook I killed a frog at Birkenau. I killed a frog, and walked away. It didn’t hop aside. It didn’t know what it was doing here. Along the muddy, slippery road, under the overcast skies pregnant with fat, unforgiving raindrops. I didn’t look back. I even smiled a little in unconscious disbelief. It [...]

Questions for Death

AA museum display case

By Anna Boiko-Weyrauch I’m prepping for an interview with the Angel of Death. Like all public figures, negotiating access can be a long process, and you never know if they’ll call at the very moment you hop on your bike or dip your toe in a magnolia-scented bubble-bath. The questions overwhelmed me visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau. Some of them [...]

Celebrating Shabbat, Celebrating Life

Synagoge Tempel in the Kazimierz district of Krakow, Poland. Photo by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

  By Leslie Esbrook Law Fellow The innocence and free-spiritedness of youth seems to touch all of us on this trip as a stark contrast to the weighty, grave issues that we discuss in our formal sessions. A group of 10 fellows went to an Orthodox Jewish service on Friday night at the last practicing [...]

Kids should play–reflections on the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

A child runs through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Photo by Valerie Hopkins

By Toby Salinger I shouldn’t have been playing at my grandfather’s funeral. But I jumped from gravestone to gravestone after a ceremony for my grandfather Alfons, a Jewish doctor who fled Berlin in 1933, served with American forces in the South Pacific and passed away in 1992 after decades of medical practice in Houston. My [...]