Educator Sees Holocaust Evidence First Hand

By Sue Roush

Erin DeHartIt was the hair that made her cry. That coupled with the luggage, toys and shoes – evidence of mankind’s worst atrocities.

Erin DeHart, assistant professor of Education at York College, recently took a 22-day study trip to Israel, Germany and Poland to continue her extensive studies on the Holocaust. It was when the group of 25 educators reached Auschwitz II - Birkenau that they saw the rooms filled with hair and other belongings left behind by the one million Jews and others who were murdered at that location.

“They shaved the heads of the victims before they killed them,” DeHart said, “The hair was more important than human lives. What causes a normal person to follow along and do these things?”

After leaving this particular concentration camp, DeHart was overcome with sadness saying, “I thought to myself, ‘I can never be happy again.’” But she was wrong. After leaving the gas chamber, DeHart saw an old friend and Holocaust survivor, Irving Roth.

Roth is an Auschwitz survivor DeHart had met on a previous trip to New York City who has had a significant impact on her. “He is so strong. He can go back to Auschwitz and take people and tell his story.” she said, “If he can do that, so can I.” While a prisoner, Roth witnessed his brother being led to the gas chamber, but he never lost his faith. Roth is credited as saying, “I must live and love, because if not, they were successful.” Roth also said, “God didn’t create Auschwitz.”

On a visit to the synagogue in Poland, DeHart met a Polish survivor. “She came in and sat down in front of us,” DeHart remembered, “I knew she was a survivor of the camps because she had a number tattooed on her arm. Following the service our tour guide spoke to her and heard her story. She then looked at us and said, “You need to tell the stories so people will remember.”

Erin DeHartDeHart is telling the stories. In her position at York College she is part of the Department of Education whose job is to teach and train students to become teachers, “students don’t need to see the grotesque, but they need to hear the stories.”

For DeHart this trip was not a vacation, but a study trip that was partially funded by a grant from the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ program. DeHart also received funding from the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Education Society and the Levitt Trust. 

DeHart is available to speak to area civic organizations and other groups about her travels and experiences studying the Holocaust. To contact her, call York College at 363-5684 or edehart@york.edu.

Photos:
Warsaw: DeHart at one of the walls of the Warsaw ghetto.
Germany: DeHart's study group at Bergen Belsen concentration camp.
Israel: Dehart at Yad Veshem, located in Jerusalem - the biggest Holocaust Museum in the world.

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