Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cellar à Droit, or The Last Supper

By Rob Gregg

The dean had been most impressed with this trip and all that it had accomplished. The group had revealed hidden children in the Netherlands (Maud Dahme and Leo Ullman) in addition to Anne Frank; it had been through som(m)e trenches, and been on Omaha beach at Normandy; it had burrowed among the skeletal remains in the Catacombs; it had traced the early years of Dan Kochavi's life in wartime Paris; it had done all these things, and so much more, and its spirit had remained intact, even buoyant.

The dean determined, therefore, that team leaders Gail Rosenthal and Mike Hayse, who had throughout the tour (though not through Tours) run everything with the precision of a Swiss watch, should be given one last test (which now has included reading a complicated run-on sentence). This test was to put the group through a harrowing (i.e., not Etonian -- English joke) experience, to see whether they would survive as a unit and come through with a plomb and ma chérie (French joke). 

This group of 42 happy and expectant souls -- happy because they had accomplished so much, and expectant because every meal had previously been a veritable feast and celebration -- were to be herded into a bare cellar, which, if they were lucky, could just about contain everyone standing straight and to attention. How would they react? What would they do? Would they, like the lunatics performing the Marat/Sade, start rioting and bring destruction to the inSeine asylum? Would they, like the sans culottes of yore and the sans pain et cirque of today, start screaming liberation, liberation, revolution, revolution?  How would they respond when the restaurant owner started shouting from the kitchens, "Laissez-les manger du gâteau! Laissez-les manger du gâteau! Let les (words deleted by censor) Américains eat cake"? Only time would tell, the dean thought, and this would surely be an excellent test to determine whether the group deserved to consider itself one of the best Stockton University and Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center Study Tours ever!

Very quickly everyone sprung into action. Tables and chairs were produced. A unit was sent above ground to forage (and essentially keep the restaurant owner on task). Gail, Mike, Sarah Albertson, Dorene Sellarole, and the indomitable Adam Szczucinski began cooking, ferrying, directing, and all the other action verbs in between, such that some order began to emerge. Meanwhile, with the cellar-dwellers beginning to chant Liberation, Maud decided that she would teach about European Reconciliation. In this case, this meant excising the E and R from liberation, and having the students demand Libation instead, which she duly provided to all of legal age and (now) sounder mind. Donald, the Baron von Scheer, announced that it had always been his life's dream to work in a French restaurant, and so he put on a bally good show as one of our waiters scurrying up and down the stairs. Soon the food was flowing in a bun dance, and fun was being had by all.

The professoriate needed to intervene at this point, so Herr (and his) Doktor Hayse and Madame La Professeur Rosenthal dropped the Mike by giving a wonderful tribute to all of the people on the trip who had made everything, including this last evening, come together so well. Presents and tributes were given to everyone. The students had come up with superlatives for every tour participant, "best this..." and "best that...", all of which were funny and somewhat accurate, besides the one that suggested that the dean "told the best dad jokes." As you can see from the foregoing account, the dean is a firm believer in "just providing the facts" and in serious reportage, so this characterization was a gross miscarriage...well, maybe not!

My thanks to everyone who came on this trip. It was a wonderful, deeply moving learning experience that we will all remember, I am sure, for the rest of our lives. Thanks to Gail, Mike, Adam, Maud, Dan & Jon, Sarah, Dorene, and all the now adopted students (both graduate and undergraduate), who all were so spectacular throughout the trip.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Catacombs

By Julia Berlinger
The Remains of those in the Catacombs

Today we went down through the underground tunnels of Paris to explore the Catacombs. This was something I was really excited for going into the Study Tour. These underground tunnels are filled with the remains of more than six million people. The bones were taken from the cemeteries in Paris that were beginning to overflow. The first transfer of human remains was April 2nd, 1786. Remains were transferred from cemeteries to the underground tunnels over the course of two years. Our tour guide told us of ghost stories and how King Louis XVI had once traveled through the Catacombs. We followed the same black line on the ceiling that the king had followed out of the Catacombs. Our guide also told us of a Nazi bunker that was put in the underground tunnels once the Nazis heard of the resistance being underground. Walking through the Catacombs it was hard to believe that we were surrounded by over six million human remains. This was an experience that I will never forget and will hopefully be able to experience again.

Catholic Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

By Alex Frame

The Notre Dame Mass service was incredibly moving  for me and the other students. When we walked into the service, it had already begun. Throughout the ceremony, you could hear the lay leader's voice echoing within the cathedral with an assist from a microphone as he orchestrated the mass. Hearing his voice and sitting with everyone in Notre Dame was an real bonding experience, everyone there was sharing a common cultural and spiritual moment in an awe-inspiring and historic setting. Even though the whole service was in French it was easy to follow and if you couldn't follow the people around you could help guide you. It was an experience of a lifetime.

Mémorial des Martyrs de la Deportation

By Carolyn Stefanu
Underneath the Notre Dame Cathedral

Built in 1962 by Charles de Gaulle, this memorial commemorates the 200,000 people who were deported from Vichy France. The memorial is located in Paris, France on the site of a former morgue, underground behind Notre Dame on Île de la Cité (city island). This "invisible" memorial is one that should be seen by all. As one enters the memorial, descending a narrow flight of stairs between massive stone blocks, the visitor experiences a sense foreboding claustrophobia and perhaps an echo of the small, cramped spaces that the deported endured. The lower level is open space but it is haunting nonetheless. The area is protected by an iron gate (reminiscent of prison bars) and above the gate hang seven metal bars with triangles pointed at the entrance to the interior of  the memorial. The claustrophobic feeling is repeated as you enter the exhibit between two large walls. The interior is simple and yet very powerful. An display of resistance letters and drawings from the deported struck a chord (although this part of the memorial was added more recently). It is a place for tears and quiet contemplation. Deep within the chamber on one wall was a map of France, marked with the number of deportees from each town. Wall murals were roughly painted. It gave a sense that the deportees drew them themselves so that we never forget who they were. We cannot forget the Martyrs of France, and this was an excellent way commemorate their memory. However, the memorial also reflects the time when it was originally designed. There is no differentiation between Jews, who were deported in the course of the genocide, and  other French citizens, who were deported for political reasons or a forced laborers for German industry and agriculture.

Notre Dame Cathedral

By Heather Hogrebe

Stockton students were able to to visit two Gothic cathedrals during this trip in France. The first cathedral is in Amiens. The cathedral in Amiens is slightly more grand in the sense that it had more ornamental detail with its gargoyles and sculptures. The Norte Dame Cathedral is smaller in size, but it is a central landmark for all tourists in Paris. One of the most noticeable pieces of the cathedral are the rose windows. One of them is thirteen and a half meters long, but they are all quite a sight to see. The flying buttresses and pointed arches are two features that are clearly gothic. Dr. Hayse was able to give lectures about Gothic architecture for both of the cathedrals to help us identify the similarities between the two.
Outside of the Notre Dame Cathedral

Inside, visitors are able to see different relief sculptures depicting different biblical references. The Norte Dame Cathedral has a variety of different stained-glass windows, which is a strong tourist attraction. Also inside, there is a model construction of the entire cathedral because from the outside, visitors cannot view it in its entirety. This is informative because it gives the visitor a more general view of the cathedral. A timeline of the cathedral's construction was also placed inside. It was interesting to see the development of the cathedral because it indicates which additions came first and which ones came later.
Inside of the Notre Dame Cathedral

A nice surprise about the Notre Dame Cathedral came from one of our tour guides during our walking tour of Paris. She said that the Norte Dame cathedral previously had sandbags surrounding it. This was to prevent and protect the cathedral from bombs and raids during the war. However, Nazis during WWII used it as a club, which is shocking, but interesting to learn. It was nice to make another connection between the core purpose of the tour and one of the main tourist sites. Overall, it was a beautiful day that was full of learning and adventure.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Walking Through Dan's Story

By Chelsea Regan

Early this morning we packed our bags on to the bus and said au revoir to our beloved Caen to head to Paris. While our early mornings on the bus generally consist of snoozing students, our trip to Paris was quite the opposite. We were honored to have the privilege of hearing Dan Kochavi, a Holocaust survivor’s, story. It is important to note that while many survivors openly share their story, there are still many who have not spoken publicly about their own and their family’s experience during WWII and the Holocaust. Dan Kochavi and his family's story is just now coming to light, largely due to a project to which Study Tour leader Michael Hayse and several students on the tour have contributed. This special project is a collective memoir, which tells the history of not only Dan, but also his family.

On the Balcony of Dan's old apartment

While telling his story, Dan informed us that although he was born and raised in France, his mother, Judith, was actually from Lithuania, and his father, Israel, was from Poland. Dan and Dr. Hayse told us about Judith and Israel’s courtship. One particular anecdote gave us a taste of Judith’s vivacious nature, which would stay with her throughout the German occupation of France. When Israel met Judith he was currently engaged. However, the engagement ended and he knew he had to travel to Paris, where Judith was living, to get his girl. After a courtship the couple -- both ardent Zionists --  agreed to move to Palestine, where they planned to marry. Judith and Israel traveled on separate ships. On Judith’s ship, several men tried to win her over. One was a butcher who explained to her that they could live a good simple life together and even proposed to her! Dr. Hayse commented on how she would play coy to evoke jealousy in Israel, as Dan chuckled while remembering his parents.

Sometime after their marriage Judith became pregnant with Dan and the soon-to-be family moved back to France. Judith worked in the kitchen of a Jewish vocational school called the ORT, since she was familiar with kosher rules and Orthodox traditions. Israel was also able to gain employment at this school and they both lived in an apartment above it in the same building (7, Rue Georges Lardennois). It was from this apartment in December 1940, that French police officers followed Israel home at 8 AM and demanded that they pack their things and come with them. Judith fought with the police because Dan, then a toddler, was sick and there was no possible way for her to be ready in the short time they gave her. However, despite her cheeky persistence they were still forced to pack up. The Kochavis were arrested, however, it is important to note that they were not arrested as Jews, but as "enemy nationals" as they bore identification papers from British-ruled Palestine.

At the doors of the old ORT school where Dan lived

The story of the Kochavis from here takes many twists and turns, which can be read about in the Kochavi memoir that is close to the final stage of publication. For the rest of this post I will be not diving further into the Kochavi’s history, but into our tour of the 19th Arrondissement with Dan, specifically our trip to Rue Georges Lardennois, the street on which Dan’s family lived, worked, and were arrested. As we arrived to the building where Dan lived before and after the war, he remembered playing on the balcony, as well as, the places where all of his friends had lived. For Dan, being so young when the Holocaust happened he does not remember much of the anti-Semitism that existed or the hardship of this time in his life. He can recall being called a ‘dirty Jew’ once (Dan acknowledges that his parents had a different experience and most likely a harder time), yet he can still recall many fond memories from his childhood home. As he stood outside to take a few pictures, a wonderful thing occurred; the door was opened and a man began to speak to Dan. After a short conversation Dan Kochavi, his son Jon, Dr. Hayse, and the students who are working on the memoir were able to enter the building and take a trip up to the balcony where Dan used to play.

While this group was inside of the building, we excitedly waited for them to reemerge and I could not help but think of my own childhood home, and how now so many years later it would probably look very different. Even with differences it must be an amazing feeling to be back in a place that you once knew so well. This feeling was very apparent on Dan’s face as he emerged on to the balcony followed by the others. He looked down and waved at us as, his face aglow with joy. Dan and the others spent quite a bit of time on the balcony, with the man who let them in. (It can be assumed there will be an exciting new chapter added to the memoir after this incredible experience.)

When the group came down to rejoin us, we learned that the building is now the headquarters and administrative offices of the ACAT, Association of Christians Against Torture. Here, people help victims of war and torture, many of them refugees, find their way and provide a safe space. Dr. Hayse commented on how appropriate it is that a place that once taught Jews technical skills that they were prohibited from learning, is helping people still today.

As we began to walk away from this building Dan commented on how memory is very strange – everything changes with time, and things become much smaller than they were in your childhood memories, but still they remain in the world. In a world where many Holocaust survivors are passing away, it is more important than ever to recount their stories, become witness to the crimes committed against them, and honor their lives, their families, and their memory, which through new eyes and minds shall never fade.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

American Airborne Museum

By Jennie Meltzer

Today, the study tour group traveled to the Airborne Museum in Saints Mère Èglise. It is dedicated to the history of the American D-day attack on Normandy beach. The museum stands over the site where the famous house that is depicted burning to the ground in the movie “The Longest Day” once stood. It is owned and operated by the American government and is composed of three different exhibits. Each exhibit discusses a different operation and features a different WWII American aircraft. Each year on June 6, a huge ceremony is held on the property to commemorate the battle, those lost in the attack, and those who had to live with the memories of one of the bloodiest days in American history.