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Auschwitz Trip: An Unusual Birthday

A picture of Stan's cat Riley inspecting his suitcase

Photo: Stan Jastrzebski

If Riley could climb into every one of these bags before I left, he would.

From now on, when people ask me what I did for my birthday in 2010, I’m going to say the following:

“Oh, I went and had dinner with my wife and some friends and then went to a death camp.”

It’s only my second-ever trip out of the country.  I honeymooned in Mexico in September, but as a friend pointed out this week, “I guess Mexico is technically not part of the United States.”  That said, traveling abroad is still a new experience to me.  And it’s not like traveling to see my family in Chicagoland — if I leave my razor or my pillow or something behind this time, I either have to deal with it for a week or contribute to the Polish economy to offset my forgetfulness.

And, even though I understand Bernoulli’s Principle and how it supposedly creates lift thanks to the curved nature of a plane’s wings, there’s something unsettling about being in the air for 9-10 hours, much of it over very cold, very deep water.  Yes, I’ve flown dozens of times before domestically with nary an incident whatsoever (knock on wood).  But I’m also 6’2″ and they just don’t make anything outside of first class for people my height.

But I’ll be traveling with an interesting group of people.  Among them:

Eva Kor, herself an Auschwitz survivor and founder of Terre Haute’s CANDLES museum.  Eva organized the trip, as she has a few times before.

Duke Bennett, a monthly guest on Ask the Mayor, who’s going in part for a Friday meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Krakow (which I hope to attend, as well).

A group of students from Bloomington’s Batchelor Middle School. Expect to hear more about these folks.  The kids aren’t just going to see the camps, they’re going as amateur documentary filmmakers, which I think is an admirable challenge to take on.  They have classes and first-rate editing facilities at school, from what I understand, and they’re going to be collecting footage just like I will.

Several teachers from Terre Haute and Bloomington.  I plan to ask them how the experience will change how they teach the Holocaust to their students.

Please stay tuned to this series of posts, which I’ll be updating at least once a day.  You can find a collection of everything I post about my trip to Auschwitz by going to our page dedicated to the trip.

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