Zoe Hano

Beverly, MA

Beverly High School


Going into this trip, I thought I understood the Holocaust. I had seen so many movies and even took a course in school to try and learn about what happened, but honestly, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

Before the trip, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of the Holocaust. I knew the numbers, but no amount of statistics could have prepared me for the overwhelming size of Auschwitz. The never-ending collection of shoes and the massive heap of ash and bone at Majdanek. Before this trip, I couldn’t even begin to understand just how many Jewish people were brutally murdered, just how many families were destroyed, and traditions forgotten. Only 30% who stepped off those trains were kept alive, and sometimes none. The size of the camps we disturbing. Real people were killed for any reason imaginable. Six million is so much bigger than I could have imagined.

I tried to write everything I could in my journal, which ended up being the most important item I carried with me the whole trip. I was able to write down every thought, and every emotion I felt. At Birkenau, I wrote “Even though this whole trip, I’ve wanted nothing more than to be alone with my thoughts, I knew that I didn’t want to be alone there. Like the people in the camp, I didn’t want to, I couldn’t lose anyone.” That moment was what this trip was all about. Forming a bond with the victims so I can better preserve their memory, and I did. I felt scared, being so small in such a large, disgusting place. I would never begun to understand them without this trip, and I’m so thankful for it. However, no matter how much I could have written in my journal, I don’t think I could have made it through the trip if it weren’t for the amazing people who were there with me, and for me.

At the end of the day, the whole group would be joking around and playing games. Just having fun, trying to cheer one another up after the long days. In the back of my mind, I always felt bad. This is a Holocaust trip, but here I am, joking and making friends. What was I supposed to tell people when I came back home? “Oh, in the mornings we saw the actual places where millions of my people died, but at night, I was having fun.” But then something that Todd said really resonated with me. He said, “I am so proud of each and every one of you for managing to have fun because this trip can be a heavy, depressing trip. Allow yourself to have fun, and just being kids because you’re showing all the Nazis that we are still here. They did not get rid of the Jews.We are back here laughing and playing in their country.”