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Professors to share Auschwitz experiences at C.A.N.D.L.E.S event March 5

February 27, 2015

Marking the 70 years since the Russians liberated Auschwitz, two Indiana State University professors will share their experiences visiting the concentration camp during a panel discussion 6:30-8:30 p.m. March 5 at the C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Museum.

As part of the College of Arts and Sciences' Community Semester, the"70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz: Reflections and Discussion" is free and open to the public. The C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Museum is located at 1532 South Third St., Terre Haute.

Isaac Land, associate professor of history at Indiana State and organizer of this year's Community Semester, had been curious about a tour of Auschwitz for many years. He felt more urgency about going when he started teaching a comparative genocide course.

"It wasn't very convenient to go in the middle of the semester, but I realized it might be my last chance to see it with a survivor," Land said. "(C.A.N.D.L.E.S. founder) Eva (Kor) was a child when she was there, and most of the survivors that are still around were just kids. So it's one thing to read about it in books, and it's another to actually walk it with a survivor."

Ann Rider, associate professor in the department of languages, literatures and linguistics, toured Auschwitz on the 60th anniversary trip and during the panel, will discuss German media coverage and the differences in how some European countries memorialized the Holocaust for the 70th anniversary.

Land went on the C.A.N.D.L.E.S.-led trip in January. His group consisted of 70 different people from 18 U.S. states and four different countries. According to Land, many dignitaries attended the ceremony -- including François Hollande, the president of France. He was also able to interact with a British psychiatric nurse who treated survivors, a German lawyer in the midst of prosecuting a 90-year-old former Nazi guard, a Rwandan genocide survivor and Rainer Hoess, the grandson of the Auschwitz camp commandant, who has visited Indiana State and is featured in the documentary, "Hitler's Children."

At Auschwitz, Kor's group was able to see some rooms that are usually blocked off to visitors.

"There are the ruins of barracks," said Land. "The guards blew up most of the gas chambers and crematoria on the way out, so often what you're looking at is a ruin -- and then we were there in January, so there's snow on everything. You need a lot of explanation to know what it is."

Among the rooms they viewed was block 10, Josef Mengele's lab, located next to torture chambers and an execution wall. Mengele could hear the screams while conducting medical experiments on twins, such as Kor and her sister at age 8. Land recalled rooms that had a pile of children's shoes -- more than 200,000 children were killed in Auschwitz -- an array of confiscated crutches and a display case of the most treasured family pictures brought to the camp by prisoners, who thought they were being brought there to work.

"It's not whether you cry in Auschwitz," Land said. "It's in which room."

A description of the atrocities of the ruined concentration camp is incomplete without a discussion of the atrocities that brought the camp to life. Land illustrated mock-medical aspects of the camp. Prisoners were stripped and fumigated after being separated from the weak -- a status that was determined by nurses and doctors at the selection platform.

"That's something some people struggle with about Auschwitz," Land said. "It's a killing factory. It's administered mainly by doctors and nurses and medical researchers ... and so these people see it as part of their medical training."

As Land was part of an audience that watched the ceremony on the screen, he recalled one survivor suggesting there should be an 11th commandment added to the original list of 10: "Don't be a bystander."

This value is one Eva often teaches visitors to the C.A.N.D.L.E.S Museum - a place that Land personally esteems because, "if you grow up in Terre Haute, you had Darfur survivors go to your high school. You had people from Rwanda come though. It has become a center for all sorts of people who are concerned with the world today," he said.


Photos: - Eva Kor, founder of the C.A.N.D.L.E.S Museum in Terre Haute, talks to Indiana State University President Dan Bradley. - Ann Rider, associate professor in the department of languages, literatures and linguistics at Indiana State University

Contact: Isaac Land, associate professor of history, Indiana State University, 812-237-4303 or

Writer: Kristen Kilker, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or