When a close friend found out I would be traveling to Eastern Europe for 12 days to study the Holocaust, he asked me, "Why are you going on this trip, you aren't Jewish?" At first I was quite taken aback. Why did my religion matter? I wanted to respond with some deep answer about the connection that exists between humans, and the duty all people have to explore the past, especially if it is painful. All I could manage, however, was a meek, "It has always interested me." I am going to see that same friend soon. When he asks about the trip I am afraid my tongue again will freeze. While traveling I did not find the words to describe why the topics broached on the Poland and Belarus trip struck a cord in me, and I have no impressive inference to pass along. Instead perhaps I will respond with some of the questions I wrote in my journal while on the trip or the ones that linger with me today. “What would I have done if someone wanted to cart my neighbor away? How can the sun shine on a place where millions of people were murdered? Why do I struggle with telling German friends that I traveled to explore the Holocaust and its wake? How could someone lay bricks knowing the wall would imprison a people? Why do people say this town was 50% Polish and 50% Jewish?’ I thought Jews could also have a nationality just like everybody else! What goes through a man’s head as he sits in a building that both served as a place of worship and as part of the horror? How can children of today be shocked by people whom have friends of different religions?”

There was no "Aha!" moment at Auschwitz in the gas chamber. There was no "Eureka!" after hearing the survivor tell his story. No grand "click" in my brain when cleaning a neglected gravestone. I came to no substantial conclusions, nor really any small ones. People expect me to describe to them the yield of my exploration. But like most investigations, I am left with more questions than conclusions. This is, however, quite satisfying for me because the new inquiries immerge from my learning process. No longer are the Jews who lost their lives just characters I read about; now they are people who had to leave their ancestors behind in Lunna to endure something worse than those already buried could have ever imagined. I had never met a Holocaust survivor; now I can hear the voice of a man who had the courage and the wits to overcome his torturers. I had an image in my mind of Auschwitz pieced together from different books and stories; now I can picture, and have pictures of, the prison’s vastness and its tiniest details. I learned and experienced enough to change the way I consider what happened 60 years ago and how those events are still affecting today. My questions have no answers to soothe me or to share with others, but I would not have it any other way.

Nora Ward ’08