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Professor Helps Keep Memories of the Holocaust Alive

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Sue Sipple spent part of her summer visiting former German Nazi death camps and cleaning up Jewish cemeteries and mass gravesites that are remnants of the Holocaust and World War II. This wasn’t a vacation; it was part of her ongoing research into the worst tragedy of the 20th century and the stories that have been written about it from the perspective of historians, survivors, and relatives of the victims.

Sipple is a professor and chair of the English/Communication Department at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College. She teaches a course on Holocaust literature and has conducted research on the topic over the past several years. In July, Sipple traveled to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Ukraine as part of a group of scholars who were selected to participate in a program sponsored by the Holocaust Education Foundation (HEF). She received a travel grant from HEF and a faculty development grant from the University of Cincinnati to help fund the research.

The massive memorial that sits on the site of the former extermination camp in Treblinka, Poland.

The massive memorial that sits on the site of the former German Nazi extermination camp in Treblinka, Poland.

This wasn’t the first time Sipple has visited the sites of former German Nazi concentration camps, but it’s still a unique experience. “When we visited the extermination camp, Treblinka, it really was overwhelming,” says Sipple. “The memorial is incredible, just the size of it.  The camp sits out in the middle of nowhere and we were the only people there. You had the history of what happened there and just the scale of the place; it was a lot to absorb.”

As part of the experience, Sipple and her fellow scholars also learned more about Jewish culture in Eastern Europe and spent time cleaning up Jewish cemeteries in Izbica, Krakow, and Lublin, Poland. Some of the cemeteries include mass gravesites. “There are so few Jews left in this part of Eastern Europe that there just aren’t many people to take care of these sites,” she noted.

Other former German Nazi concentration and extermination camps visited by the group included Birkenau, Belzec, and Majdanek, along with the ravines at Babi Yar in Kiev, where over 33,000 Jews were murdered by Nazi’s in 1941.

The famous gate at Birkenau (or Auschwitz II), the death camp in Oświęcim, Poland

The famous gate at Birkenau (or Auschwitz II), the former German Nazi death camp in Oświęcim, Poland

“I am grateful to have been accepted into this program by the Holocaust Education Foundation and to have received faculty development support from UC; this research is extremely helpful,” says Sipple. “To read about these sites and the Holocaust is one thing, to actually experience them is so much more meaningful. This will help me bring a new perspective to the literature for my students.”

Sipple offers the Holocaust literature course once each year at UC Blue Ash and the class continues to fill up. There are enough young people interested in learning about the subject and there is plenty of new material that continues to be produced to help make sure we never forget about the millions of people affected by this tragedy.

About UC Blue Ash College

UC Blue Ash College is a regional college within the University of Cincinnati. It offers one of the best values in higher education with access to a nationally recognized UC education in nearly 50 degrees and certificates, as well as tuition that is about half of most colleges and universities. The college is located on a scenic 135-acre wooded campus in the heart of Blue Ash, Ohio.