Jessica Baumann ('03)

Jessica Baumann (Ď03):  Since my participation in the 2003 Holocaust Remembrance Project trip to D.C., I have graduated from McDowell High School and enrolled at Gannon University of Erie, PA as a biology major in the Pre-med program. This coming year I will be a senior, and after graduation I hope to pursue a career in medicine as either a physician or biomedical researcher. Iím currently in the middle of an internship with the HIV Drug Resistance Program at the National Cancer Institute.

The week spent alongside holocaust survivors, educators, and my peers was without a doubt one of the most memorable and significant events of my life. Prior to the trip I felt that I, being neither the relative of a survivor nor Jewish, did not have the personal connection to the Holocaust required to qualify me as a participant in a dialog of it. However, after hearing the extraordinary stories of Leo, Irene, and Henry I realized that by virtue of my membership in the human community I was not only justified in my concern of this tragedy, but obligated to share my knowledge of its significance with every person that I met. I emerged from the summer of 2003 as not a mere student of the Holocaust, but a witness.

Being surrounded by such an extraordinary group of mentors and students was an honor I still feel unworthy to have received. Having read the alumni reports during the past few months, I have come to realize that students that have participated in this program are among the most extraordinary in the country, and I am truly humbled to be counted among them. One of the greatest benefits of my time in D.C. was the exposure it gave me to scholars of differing ages, experiences, and aspirations. They illustrated unquestionably that the Holocaust touches us all regardless of ambition or background.

I also have this experience to thank for the origins of my current educational and professional goals in the medical industry. Hearing Irene speak of the horrors that she and others suffered at the hands of Nazi doctors was a powerful illustration of the way in which science can be perverted by personal prejudice. To hear of how those who had been trained to heal could have partaken in such atrocities fostered initial feelings of disgust, but soon instilled in me a great resolve. I was inspired to become physician: a career that would allow me to extend the summerís lessons of humanity, empathy, and a basic appreciation life in my own community. If I have learned nothing else from this experience, it is that the person you are is not a measure of wealth or glory, but a measure of the people youíve touched and the love youíve given.

I was forever changed by this experience, and cannot express in mere words what it has meant to me. Seeing the expansion of program within the last few years has given me great hope that it will someday reach the awareness of every student across the nation. The fact that many still live in denial or ignorance of the Holocaust is a grave injustice to all those who suffered through it, and as witnesses we must spread our knowledge of it at every opportunity. For to understand the Holocaust is to understand the dire consequences of the hatred and bigotry we so often tolerate. Learning of it can nurture the sense of empathy required to quell the blind animosity that has become all too prevalent in our world.