Speaker shares that remnants of Holocaust still existJanuary 25, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER— “The Holocaust began with words, and words have consequences.”
That sentence opened with video with which Charles Moman began his presentation, “My Journey to Auschwitz,” Thursday night at the Dubois County Museum.
Moman is a music teacher, turned public speaker and photographer, from Seymour, and first visited Auschwitz in 2015 with Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor, who was one of a pair of twins experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele. Though he’s neither a Holocaust or World War II expert, he has turned his experiences into a presentation to teach others about the Holocaust and to show people the remnants of the genocide that still exist in Europe today.
About 140 people turned out Thursday night for his presentation, hosted by the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library and the Dubois County Museum.
Moman’s mission to educate others about the Holocaust began in 2014 when a car accident nearly killed him. During his two months of recovery, Moman found a documentary about Eva Kor on Netflix.
“I just went down the rabbit hole,” he said. “I kept thinking about the Holocaust.”
Through his research, Moman learned about CANDLES Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Terre Haute that Kor started.
In January 2015, he traveled with Kor and a group from the museum to Poland where he visited both Kor’s home village and several concentration camps, including Auschwitz.
During the trip, he learned that anti-Semitism was prevalent well before World War II and the Nazis’ Final Solution — the plan for the genocide. While the group visited the school house where Kor went to school, for example, Kor shared a story of a math lesson where the teacher put 5-3 on the black board and asked the class, “If I have five Jews and I kill three, how many will be left?”
Moman also learned that in every country, the Nazis had help with their work either from the militaries of the countries they invaded or other fascist groups. “I always thought it was all done by the German troops,” Moman said. “But that’s not true.”
That fact was also new for Jasper resident Derry Creutz.
“I didn’t realize that before,” Creutz said.
When Moman returned from the January trip, he began speaking about his experience and sharing the photographs he took. Soon, he realized he needed to know more. In August 2015, he returned to Poland on his own, visiting several concentration camps before returning to Auschwitz. Between the two trips, he got strikingly different photos.
The photographs from Moman’s January trip show an Auschwitz covered in snow, the buildings standing against a gray winter sky. The photos from the August trip, however, show the buildings standing against a blue sky surrounded by green grass and wildflowers.
“(The flowers) are a weird thing to see in a place of death,” Moman said.
Some of Moman’s photos from his visits to Auschwitz show a wall of family photos the people killed at Auschwitz brought with them, thinking they were being resettled rather than sent to die.
“I saw more people crying here than anywhere else in the camp,” he said. “You see people that look like you; families that look like yours.”
He took several close-up shots of that exhibit that he included in the presentation, as well as several photos from the archives of Holocaust museums he’s visited. The photos are part of his effort to make sure the people in his audience remember that the huge numbers of deaths reported are made up of individual people.
“I don’t like numbers because it takes away from the fact that every one of these is an individual,” he said.
The presentation also included several photos of people holding photographs from World War II in the same place in present day. Photos of Jews being herded off box cars appeared in photos Moman took while touring Auschwitz; photos of the gas chambers and crematoriums appeared in Moman’s photos of those same buildings today.
And he had photos of drawings children drew while living in the camps. They depicted scenes from home, as well as scenes of the Nazis shooting people in the camp.
“Children should not be drawing these things,” Moman said.
When Moman speaks, he’s careful not to call the Nazis crazy or insane. In his research, he’s learned that they were well-educated people; they were not crazy. To call them such, he said, makes them less culpable for their actions.
He also wants his audiences to leave his talks realizing that it’s easy to say, “Never again” when the Holocaust is discussed, but harder to act in real life. He points out that since the Holocaust, several more genocides have taken place around the world including: the Rwandan genocide in 1990; one against Croatian and Bosnian civilians in 1995 after Yugoslavia broke along ethnic lines; and a genocide of Darfuri civilians in Sudan in 2003.
Moman’s biggest reason for sharing his photographs and experiences with the Holocaust, however, is to make sure that its victims are never forgotten.
At the end of his presentation, Moman showed a black and white photo he’d found of two French toddlers who were transported from France to Poland to be put to death because of their Jewish heritage.
“Why do I do it?” he said. “It’s so these two boys are never forgotten.”
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