The Eldred World War II Museum will host a program at 2 p.m. Saturday commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.
Curator Steve Appleby will give a historical overview of the camp, and then Deborah Hamilton, a social studies teacher for the Northern Potter School District, will speak of her experiences traveling through Poland. Hamilton explained her goal each time she speaks is to create a human connection to the tragedy of the Holocaust.
“We often look at the Holocaust as a terrible event that happened a long time ago and we are disconnected from it. Anti-Semetic beliefs and attacks against the Jews continue to happen even in 2020 and it is important to remember that nothing positive can come from hate,” she said.
“By continuing to educate my students and the community about the Holocaust, we are putting the human element back in the story,” Hamilton said. “When we talk about statistics, it is easy to lose the human element. We have to remember that each of these millions of people had a family, a story, and a life that was cut way too short because of the inhumanity of other human beings.”
Hamilton explained that a group of teachers from across the United States were selected to travel through Poland visiting towns, cities, concentration camps, and death camps, and Hamilton was one of those chosen in 2018. They learned about Jewish life and how, with the rise of the Nazi party, people were extinguished by the millions fom Europe.
“The trip was very educational and emotional. Visiting the camps and bearing witness to the consequences of hate at times was crippling,” Hamilton said. “We learned the stories of specific families and how they were separated and sent to death. We walked the tracks. I came home feeling empowered to share the story of the Jews and be a voice for the millions of people who lost their own voices too soon.”
The group of educators share a bond as a result of the trip that remains strong long after they returned to their homes.
“I was able to meet and get to know 19 other educators very well. We shared laughter, anger, and many tears. These people became part of me,” Hamilton said. “They continue to inspire me everyday as we still try to get together if we are in each other’s area. I believe God put these people on my path because I can not imagine experiencing that journey with any other group.”
For Hamilton’s family, her passion is shared.
“My 11-year-old is also very interested in stories of the Holocaust. She asks if I will take her to Poland one day to see specifically Auschwitz,” Hamilton said. “I always tell her ‘we will see’ because being exposed to it once was one of the most emotionally exhausting things I have ever done.”
Hamilton was featured in the “Graduate Spotlight” in the February 2019 edition of “Yad Vashem Jerusalem,” which is published by the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. In the article, Hamilton shares her enlightenment as a result of the trip, noting “My heart was overwhelmed with the idea that hate can cause so much harm. While I understood this, to witness it gave me a whole new perspective.”
She also has created a grassroots movement, “Hate Has No Home Here,” in response to anti-Semitism she experienced close to home.