The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Annual Poland trip continues this winter

SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program is giving students and local community members the opportunity to travel to Poland this winter.

TravelersParticipants will venture to the European country from Dec. 18 to 30, witnessing what they read in their history books first-hand.

Each winter, Dr. Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, travels with a small group of individuals to learn about events labor and execution camps. This year, the trip will begin in Gdansk, a city in northern Poland, and will proceed to Warsaw, a former Jewish ghetto.

The group will also visit other sites, including Jedwabne, the setting of a 1941 Jewish massacre, Pawiak, a famous political prison during the Nazi regime, and Belzec, an extermination center where over 500,000 lives were taken during its nine months of operation.

Halperin believes that the visit to Belzec is a vital part of the trip because, although many lives were lost there, it is not a well-known site.

“The fact that no one has heard of it does, indeed, show [the] Germans’ success,” Halperin stated in a press release. “To me, that raises disturbing and profound questions. How do you kill that many people and then have the world not even know about it?”

In addition to visiting these places, along with many others, group members will have the opportunity to talk with Holocaust survivors and visit a variety of museums and memorials.

Jordan Johansen is a senior triple major in history, music and anthropology with a minor in human rights.  She went on the trip in December of 2008 and found it to be a profound experience.

“I saw what I expected to see, but it was the extra dimensions – the bleak weather, the feel of the wooden beds, the stale smell of mass graves, the lonely sounds of emptiness – that transformed my experience,” Johansen said. “By being immersed in the physical and emotion vestiges of genocide, I could edge closer to understanding and appreciating the daily experience of the victims and the survivors.”

According to a press release about the trip, Tony Pederson, professor and Belo Distinguished Chair in Journalism who joined the trip in 2007, described the experience as something that “stays with you” and a “significant part of any liberal arts education.”

If traveling to Poland is too far out of your reality, The Embrey Human Rights Program has a variety of other ways for students to become involved, either on campus or in the surrounding Dallas area. Within the next month, the program will host four events on campus as a part of its Fall 2010 series, “Death Penalty Matters,” in addition to two lunch lectures presented by Halperin at Maggiano’s Restaurant at North Park Center.

While Johansen is involved in the Human Rights Program, anyone can go on the trip to Poland, attend the lectures, or enroll in the courses offered by the program.

“I would absolutely recommend this trip to other students,” Johansen said. “The trip is tormenting, powerful and meaningful. This trip changes lives.”

For more information about the trip, visit the Embrey Human Rights offices in 109 Clements, or visit Scholarship applications are available through the program, and the registration deadline is Sept. 20.

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