Friday, April 3, 2015
Volunteer Profile: Gesine Reichel, 2014-2015
Hometown: Brandenburg, Germany
What attracted you to the AJC?
I am especially interested in history and politics and I like to teach people, so the AJC is the perfect place for me. Guiding tours and workshops, I teach people about the Jewish history of Oświęcim. By doing this, I can transmit the message of tolerance. This gives me the opportunity to learn so much about history, Judaism, education, and Poland while I improve my language skills in English, Polish, and French. And of course I enjoy the good atmosphere and coffee in Café Bergson!
What are you enjoying most about your volunteer experience?
Everything! It is pretty difficult to answer this question because I am so in love with this place, but I think most important is the contact with so many interesting, different people and what we share with each other. Not only can I teach new things, most of the time I learn from these people. It is such a great opportunity and I get so much back from the experience. I remember one situation when a group of Jews from America visited; I gave them a short introduction of the Jewish history of the town. They were really happy and grateful for my voluntary service, and they invited me to their prayer in the synagogue. It was a great honor for me to hear them singing and watch their emotional response to this place – this was one of the most touching moments – I cannot even describe what I felt.
How has volunteering here affected you?
It opens new horizons and perspectives for me. It has changed my personality and I learn so much about myself. I still have half a year as a volunteer, so I cannot summarize the entire experience yet.
What is one thing you’d like others to know about the AJC or think people don’t know?
The most important point for me is the other view about “Auschwitz.” Yes: Auschwitz is also a town, a city with a big rich Jewish past! Now for me this reality is normal, but before coming here even I did not know about this Jewish history – and that is actually the same situation of most of our visitors. I also like to tell the personal stories, which visitors remember the best: for example, how Marta Świderska, a Christian, saved the picture of herself with her best friend Olga Pressler, who was Jewish. These stories draw a picture in people’s heads so that they understand the Jewish history of the town better. These stories are touching so that people understand how important it is to prevent a second Holocaust.