McMurry Students Visit Dallas Holocaust Museum

  Gary Ellison
  Tuesday, October 31, 2017 1:41 PM
  Archives 2016 - 2017

Abilene, TX

As part of the First Year Experience, McMurry University Professor of Sociology Dr. Robert Wallace is offering a freshman seminar class “Beautiful Souls: Models of Resistance.” The seminar examines several accounts where individuals in leadership positions surmised the situation and did the right thing against significant odds. One of the first cases deals with Jewish persecution and the Nazi Holocaust.

To provide a deeper understanding of the Holocaust, several students in the “Beautiful Souls” Freshman Seminar, were able to visit the Dallas Holocaust Museum. During and after the Holocaust there were some 500 Jews who ended up in the Dallas area.Their experiences and stories anchored the Museum, giving it a unique perspective.

In 1938 Switzerland established a law that forbid the entrance of anyone who was identified as being Jewish. A Swiss border guard near the Austrian border, Paul Gruninger, disobeyed this law and allowed many Jews to enter Switzerland. His case of resistance suggested the importance of compassion. Gruninger let the Jewish refugees in his office and when he heard their stories, he realized that sending them back to Austria would mean sure death. As one social scientist remarks about empathy, “it is more difficult to be cruel, if the distance between you and the victim is less.” 

The students were deeply moved by the Museum’s many exhibits. The picture below is an exhibit with cement pillars representing the number of Holocaust deaths. As suggested, the most lives were lost in 1942 with the development of the concentration death camps. To transport individuals to the death camps, the railroad system was used. To make the Museum attendee aware of this, there was a railroad car to view. And, on an auditory level, there was a constant reminder of an eerie noise of a moving train. A final exhibit was a video of the stories of the Dallas Holocaust survivors. It was heartbreaking to listen to their accounts of dehumanization, sacrifice, and loss. Needless to say, Dr. Wallace and his students left Dallas Holocaust Museum with a profound sense of the need for empathy for our fellow human beings. 

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Gary Ellison