A Visit to Two Death Camps


Hello! My name is Emily Marie Colon and I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I am majoring in History with a minor in Journalism. I have always loved history, and studying the Holocaust has always been one of my favorite topics to study. I find it incredibly interesting and am someone who thinks that it is important to study history so that it does not repeat itself. I believe that education is power and the more I know, the more I can help educate others.

As a young girl I always dreamed about what it would be like to visit a former concentration or death camp and how I would feel and react being there. I never imagined that a young girl who grew up in Milwaukee would get the opportunity to go.  When I first heard about this trip I did not even know that we would be visiting a concentration camp, but I knew that I had to go because it was an opportunity to learn more about Eastern Europe and the Holocaust first hand.  When I found out that we were going not only to Auschwitz-Birkenau but also Majdanek, I knew I made the right choice and could not wait for this opportunity to arrive.

Today we visited Majdanek and I still can’t believe that I was actually there. Visiting a concentration camp for me was a surreal feeling. I actually felt more emotional at Majdanek than I did at Auschwitz and I can’t really explain why. Though most people think of Auschwitz when they think of a Nazi death camp, they need to realize it was not the only one and that many people perished at the other camps as well. The fact that Majdanek is still almost completely intact is both impressive and shocking. We literally got to walk in the gas chambers and got to see the crematoria which was an experience in itself. We also saw a bunker full of shoes as well as a bunker that showed their living conditions. They also have a semi-recently built mausoleum filled with ashes found at Majdanek. It does not matter how many pictures you see or how much you study and read about a concentration camp or the Holocaust nothing compares to standing and taking in the place where it all happened.

It was definitely an emotional experience, but I am not sure what emotions I am feeling as a result; I will need some time to process the day. One thing I do is that it was a once in a lifetime experience that I will remember and share for the rest of my life. The number of visitors to Majdanek is much smaller than Auschwitz and that is a shame; both are very important places in history and both should be remembered. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have visited here and for the chance to be able to leave, when so many who came here did not have that option.

Today we also had the wonderful opportunity to visit another death camp: Belzec. It is not a place that many people visit so it was a unique opportunity. It was definitely an interesting experience.  View the trip’s photo album here.

– Emily Marie Colon, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh