Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sobibor & Ethical Excavation

Entrance to the St. Louis Holocaust Museum & Learning Center

Dr. Richard Freund (with arrow) sits and chats before the presentation
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the Sobibor Extermination Camp revolt in Poland. There were about 300 who escaped, but only 50-70 survived the war.

I had the privilege today of hearing Dr. Richard Freund of the University of Hartford speak before we watched the pre-release of his film "Deadly Deception at Sobibor" at the St. Louis Holocaust Museum & Learning Center. 

About 60-70 of us gathered in a side room and listened to Freund discuss his excavation efforts at the site of the Sobibor Extermination Camp. 

He is a short man with glasses and dark hair and he talks with a Boston accent. He wore a dark navy suit coat and had a yarmulke on his head. 

He told us how that in the Jewish tradition, one does not dig up the bones of the dead when excavating an area; that to do so in the case of a Holocaust site is to murder the person twice. Dr. Freund explained that he uses ground-penetrating radar that maps the entire subsurface. This allows the digger to know what is underneath before attempting to penetrate the soil. 

Despite having to peer through shadows of heads that blocked out chunks of the lower part of the screen I enjoyed the film. It was fascinating and sad. It was very interesting every time the camera zoomed in on an object that one of the workers pulled from the dirt. There were pieces of jewelry, piles of luggage keys, bones, a set of teeth, bottles, glasses, a Nazi eagle emblem, and even a Mickey Mouse pin.

It is good to be reminded of the cruel extent of racism in our world. To remember the loss of humanity and to pray against the tendencies in our own hearts to reject people that aren't like ourselves. It goes along with the sermon today I heard, taken from the book of James about rejecting or accepting people based on their outward appearance (James 1:27-2:13). We are all level at the cross. We must first recognize we are rescued people then we can accept other people. We are not special or elite. 


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