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Senior Airman Alton Kelly reads a copy of "Maus" by Art Spiegelman, a graphic novel about the Holocaust that tells the story of Spiegelman’s parents’ survival in the Auschwitz concentration camps during World War II. Kelly was part of a group from Vance Air Force Base, Okla., that visited the 45th Infantry Division Museum in Oklahoma City. He is assigned to the 71st Comptroller Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Frank Casciotta)
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Vance members travel to Oklahoma City to reflect on the Holocaust

Posted 4/25/2012   Updated 4/25/2012 Email story   Print story


by 2nd Lt. Thomas R. Barger
71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

4/25/2012 - VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Ten members of Team Vance took time to remember the Holocaust at a memorial exhibit in Oklahoma City, Thursday, April 19.

The group drove to the 45th Infantry Division Museum in Oklahoma City to see the Dachau concentration camp exhibit.

During the bus ride, Vance personnel were introduced to "Maus" by Art Spiegelman, a graphic novel that tells the story of his father's and mother's survival of the Auschwitz concentration camps. Conversations also included Holocaust movies such as "Schindler's List," "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" and "Life is Beautiful."

Second Lt. Abraham Raymond, who helped organize the museum trip, said he wanted people to feel a connection to the Holocaust. "I thought this would be a good way to connect members of the Vance family to the Holocaust," said Raymond. "Especially those who felt no connection to the Holocaust before."

Raymond was particularly moved, not just by the emotionally draining Dachau concentration camp exhibit, but by the reaction of the group once everyone saw it.

"We made our way through a number of other light-hearted exhibits at the museum," said Raymond. "But when we entered the Dachau exhibit, everyone became quiet."

Everyone began carefully reading letters and firsthand accounts and studying the gruesome pictures. Those who were seeing a Holocaust exhibit for the very first time were feeling the impact.

The small room dedicated to the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp displayed what the liberators saw as they entered and took control of the camp. It captured the chaos that erupted in the confusion of how to comprehend and handle such a situation.

Letters on the wall recalled the chaos of the liberation.

Lieutenant Col. Felix L. Sparks, the battalion commander who took Dachau, recounted a general officer who arrived on the scene with a reporter. The two caused some confusion in an already dire situation.

Sparks asked the general, who he referred to as a "dandy," to leave the scene. As the general attempted to relieve Sparks of his command, Sparks drew his pistol and repeated his request that the general and reporter leave. The general departed.

Pictures behind glass attempted to capture and convey the horrific torture victims of the Holocaust faced. Photographs of emaciated, boney bodies, piled like laundry, gave a small glimpse of what the liberators saw that day and what the victims had faced almost every day for years.

Remembering the Holocaust is important to Raymond. "The 11 million victims of the Holocaust included various groups of people; Jews, Catholics, foreigners, political opponents, and American prisoners of war.

"But in the end, the Holocaust victimized human beings, and as human beings we should bear witness to what happened," said Raymond. "Our ability to pass on history and to learn from it is what makes humans capable of greatness."

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