Past is Present: A Year Later

The Personal Impact

A photo series of some of the teachers, students, and Institute staff who participated in the Auschwitz: Past is Present mission to Poland in January 2015. Learn more about the impact that experience has had on them one year later.

After returning home from Poland, the teachers and Junior Interns who took part in “Auschwitz: The Past is Present” spread its message of remembrance and tolerance all over the world. Here’s a sample of their achievements:

Ingrid Alexovics, teacher from Hungary, spoke to her class about the trip and is building an IWalk about her city of Pécs. Read more

Christa Calkins, teacher from New York, was an IWitness Teaching Fellow at USC Shoah Foundation in July 2015. Read more

Christine Cole, teacher from Australia, was featured in her school’s newsletter, wrote a blog, led a unit on stereotyping and anti-Semitism and took her class to the Melbourne Holocaust Museum. Read more

Merinda Davis, teacher from Utah, created the “Roman Kent Peace Project” to inspire students to promote kindness and tolerance in their community. Read more

Anna Hackel, Gabe Hackel and Lucia Wiedeman, Junior Interns from California, appeared in “Auschwitz: The Past is Present Virtual Experience” which was viewed by thousands of students across the country. Read more

Miljenko Hajdarovic, teacher from Croatia, was chosen along with 300 other educators to rewrite Croatia’s national curriculum; Hajdarovic will work on history and politics. Read more

Ruth Hernandez, Junior Intern from Pennsylvania, spoke about the trip in her history class and a local synagogue. Read more

Jeffrey Langham, USC Shoah Foundation Webmaster, had an opportunity to go to Poland to provide communications support. "There is nothing that can prepare you for your first encounter with Auschwitz. It defies imagination," said Langham. "Coming back from that experience, I feel a greater duty to help share survivor testimony to as many people as possible so we can make a difference: teachers, students, the decision makers who can help keep this from happening again."

Charlotte Masters, Junior Intern from Washington, DC, published a poem inspired by Auschwitz, gave a presentation to her entire high school about the trip, and created the Survivors Speakers Bureau to bring Holocaust survivors into local schools. Read more

Larry Mikulcik, teacher from Canada, led a school assembly, two community presentations and a Holocaust Symposium with 300 students and teachers inspired by his experiences in Poland, and incorporated testimony into his history and language arts classes. Read more

Laura Pritchard Dobrin, teacher from Virginia, presented at the Virginia Association of Teachers of English conference, was an IWitness Teaching Fellow at USC Shoah Foundation in July 2015, and published an IWitness activity called Writing in Exile. Read more

Tracy Sockalosky, teacher from Massachusetts, has incorporated more primary sources and testimony into her lessons and created a lesson centered on Roman Kent’s speech at the commemoration. Read more

Johanna Söderholm, teacher from Finland, has spoken and given interviews about her experience for dozens of organizations, schools and media outlets, led discussions and lessons with university and high school students, and translated and piloted Finnish-language IWitness activities. Read more

Keith Stringfellow, teacher from North Carolina, participated in USC Shoah Foundation’s #BeginsWithMe social media campaign and was an IWitness Teaching Fellow at USC Shoah Foundation in July 2015. Read more

Karen Wells, teacher from Arkansas, appeared in “Auschwitz: The Past is Present Virtual Experience,” spoke to classes, presented at the Arkansas state library conference and collaborated with fellow APIP teachers Laura Pritchard Dobrin and Steven Howell on a proposal for the Arkansas Holocaust Conference. Read more

Jeannie Woods, teacher from Alabama, blogged throughout the trip to Poland, inspired two students to create their own website about Woods’ experience for a technology competition and participated in the IWitness Video Challenge. Read more

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the Impact of the 70th Anniversary

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum reports that the January commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz were attended by nearly 300 former prisoners from all over the world and 52 delegations representing states and supranational organizations. Direct broadcast on 250 television stations was watched by over half a billion people while news articles devoted to the anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Holocaust were read by over 1 billion people.

In 2015, 1.72 million people visited Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum– the most ever in a single year. Over 11,000 people visited the site to participate in seminars, conferences or educational programs and over 200 professional film crews worked on documentaries at the camp in 2015.

The museum also launched a new online booking system to accommodate the increase in visitors.

On January 27, 2016, the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the museum has planned a commemoration centered on the theme of “returns” – what the survivors did after their liberation and how they were able to lead productive, meaningful lives after the Holocaust. The main commemorative ceremony will be held in the so-called “sauna” building at Auschwitz II-Birkenau followed by a prayer and tribute at the Memorial of the Victims, also at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Based on the global media coverage of the 70th anniversary and subsequent rise in attendance at the site over the year, the museum leadership felt that Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum seized the opportunity and conveyed the messages of the former prisoners to a worldwide audience.