Last summer, approximately 25 intellectually curious, soon-to-be-colleagues from all over the world converged on the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum for the Auschwitz International Summer Academy. I was privileged to be among them, thanks to financial support I received from my school’s Clough Center for Global Understanding.
I’m a veteran secondary school teacher at the oldest public school in the United States, Boston Latin School. I’m a Museum Teacher Fellow and Regional Museum Educator for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. I’m a Master Teacher Fellow at the USC Shoah Foundation. Before teaching, I was an art museum curator, so I have a keen appreciation for the challenges that museum staff face. I first visited the site in the summer of 2001, with a group of educators led by resistance fighter and Holocaust survivor Vladka Meed. Plus I have been bringing groups of 50 students and faculty since 2001 to the site annually, so Auschwitz was hardly new to me. I was well versed in the literature and have met with many survivors of the camp.
In short, I thought I knew quite a bit about not only the Holocaust in general but about Auschwitz specifically. Or so I thought.
I was wrong.