Shelton resident to visit Auschwitz with military program

Kelli Freer, a Shelton resident and student at the U.S. Military Academy, will travel to Auschwitz as part of a program for future military leaders.

Freer is among 14 cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Coast Guard Academy chosen by the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation to participate in the center’s American Service Academies Program.

The students will learn how to examine history, become an ambassador of ethical behavior, and take responsibility for upholding these values as future military leaders.

“By taking the time to study the Holocaust, our society can learn to be one of action, not inaction,” said Freer, a mechanical engineering major at West Point.

Training at two U.S. museums

The program participants began orientation in Washington, D.C. and visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Students then attended additional training at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City before going to Poland for two weeks.

The military students will learn about the Holocaust and contemporary moral and ethical matters, meet with historians and staff members from the two museums, take part in workshops on military leadership, and hear survivor testimony.

Traveling to Poland

While in Poland, the participants will learn firsthand about the vibrant life of Jews in pre-World War II Poland, especially in the town where Auschwitz — the former Nazi concentration camp — is located.

Each student will meet with Polish and American leaders, visit historic Jewish sites, attend workshops with Holocaust survivors and historians, and visit and attend seminars at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, among other activities.

The program is designed to help future military leaders understand what can happen in the absence of open and democratic governance, the ongoing relevance of the Holocaust to their work, and inspire and empower them to share their insights and understanding with others.

The program is supported by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

About the center in Poland

The Auschwitz Jewish Center in Poland is operated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The center in Poland opened its doors in 2000 and joined with the U.S. museum in 2006.

Located three kilometers from the Auschwitz–Birkenau death camps, the Auschwitz Jewish Center provides a place for individuals and groups from around the world to pray, study, and learn about the vibrancy of Jewish culture before the war, and memorialize victims of the Holocaust.

The only Jewish presence in the vicinity of Auschwitz, the center’s facilities include the only surviving synagogue in the Polish town of Oswiecim, which is near Crakow.