September 27, 2012
When she arrived at Auschwitz in Poland, Rebekah Dickey, a senior English education major at Indiana State University, from Paris, Ill., thought that it wouldn't get to her.
But even 65 years after Soviet troops liberated the Nazi death camp, Dickey said, "You can literally still smell death."
At the tracks just outside the gates at Auschwitz Birkenau, Dickey saw hundreds of cardboard cards as family memorials placed around the tracks. At that moment, the trip to Auschwitz moved from history books to personal experience for Dickey.
"Now when you talk about the Holocaust it's different because I have been there, said Dickey. "It feels that everything I did while I was there got imprinted on my mind. Even as I look at the pictures I can remember what it smelt like, what it sounded like, what was going on at the time that I took the picture and I hope that it is always that clear."
Dickey traveled to Auschwitz in July as part of a tour group with CANDLES Museum and Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor.
While studying at ISU, Dickey attended a Holocaust study class taught by Ann Rider, associate professor of German and woman studies. Rider urged Dickey for years to study overseas and to experience the history and culture of Poland and the Holocaust first hand.
"Her message made a personal impact and when I went there it made me more worldly aware. I didn't expect it to be that different from the U.S," Dickey said about her trip to Auschwitz.
Dickey received the Eva Mozes Kor Scholarship to help pay the trip's cost because of Dickey's dedication to Holocaust study, and because of the strength of her project, according to Rider. The scholarship supports students who are doing Holocaust-related research and require travel.
"We were especially pleased to award the scholarship to a student traveling with Eva Kor and the CANDLES Holocaust Museum to Auschwitz," said Rider.
Dickey admires Kor, who survived the Auschwitz Nazi death camp where millions were murdered and where Kor had endured medical experiments along with her twin sister. Now, Kor regularly returns to Auschwitz, to tell others her story and to explain how she forgave her captors.
"Forgiveness is an act of self-healing by healing the wound of the past; self-liberating, by stopping to feel as a victim I am no longer limited by my painful and demeaning experiences, and I can try to strive for new, and enriching endeavor's; and self-empowering, by realizing that I have the power over my life, and my happiness. I believe that anger is a seed for war, and forgiveness is a seed for peace," Kor said.
Dickey, too, felt the power of forgiving others. Throughout school she felt unpopular and would rather curl up and read a book than go out and play at recess. She found it difficult to fit in with her classmates. After her eighth grade literature teacher brought her class to CANDLES, Dickey listened to Kor's story and it began her interest in the Holocaust.
"When I first heard Eva speak it really helped me because a big part of her message is forgiveness, not for the people that did the crime but for you. Because if you forgive the person that hurt you, you're no longer the victim anymore because you're the one that has the power to give your forgiveness," Dickey said.
This experience of going out of the country for the first time, made a personal impact on Dickey while she had the chance to be amongst the culture, food and people in Poland.
"This was a once in a lifetime experience, that nothing will equal as far as Holocaust studies", said Dickey.
Rebekah Dickey inside a barrack at Auschwitz. Courtesy Photo
Eva Kor stands at the sign where her barracks once stood. Courtesy Photo
Rebekah Dickey at the candle lighting ceremony at the memorial wall at Auschwitz I. Courtesy Photo
Auschwitz through the barbed wire fence. Courtesy Photo
Writer: Sarina Bayer, Indiana State University, media relations assistant, at 812-237-3773
Rebekah Dickey traveled to Auschwitz in July as part of a tour group with CANDLES Museum and Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor.