Stockton's Holocaust Center provides vital service

A camp prisoner's uniform sits in a permanent display case at Richard Stockton College, which houses the Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center.

The Holocaust Resource Center at Richard Stockton College opened in 1990. It has become a vital resource on Holocaust and genocide studies for the college, for local schools and the community. A Master's Degree program was added in 1998 and the Leo B. Schoffer family donated $500,000 in 2007 to upgrade the center now named for Schoffer's parents, Sam and Sara, both Holocaust survivors.

It was never my intention to study the Holocaust and other genocides. I came to Stockton to become a history teacher. When it came time to pick classes senior year a friend suggested I take History of the Third Reich with Dr. Michael Hayse. I was skeptical, but her enthusiasm for the class convinced me to get over my aversion for "depressing history."

I took every Holocaust and Genocide class I could fit into my schedule after that. I realized that studying the topic was not about how sad this horrific event was; it was about understanding the social mechanisms in place that allowed for such a thing to occur. Suddenly, studying was no longer depressing, it was empowering.

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The following summer I went on the Stockton Study Tour to Germany and the Netherlands. When I graduated with my BA in History I was a few credits shy of the minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Unsure of what to do after graduation, I stopped by the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center (HRC) for some advising. After meeting with Dr. Hayse, the director of the Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide (MAHG) Studies program, and Gail Rosenthal, the director of the Center, I decided to stay at Stockton for the master's degree.

This is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Being a part of this program has given me opportunities to travel and meet people and have experiences that have impacted me greatly. The survivors I have met through the HRC have taught me about hope and the tremendous strength of the human spirit.

One day I received an e-mail from the Holocaust Resource Center; the director always has an eye out for opportunities that might interest MAHG students. This particular e-mail was about a fellowship to study in Poland.

After completing one semester in the MAHG program I was awarded the Auschwitz-Jewish Center Fellowship, a fully funded study tour in Poland.

Although I had some serious trepidation about visiting Auschwitz and Treblinka, as well as the Lodz and Warsaw ghettos, it was an incredibly important trip for me. Again, I expected sadness, and there was plenty, but what I did not expect was the growth that has occurred in Poland. The infamous anti-semitism of Poland in the early twentieth century is no more. In its place among Polish scholars of the subject is a desire to understand it and prevent it from ever occurring again.

I can say, without doubt, that pursuing this Master's degree has enriched my life and the way I see the world dramatically. My decision to undertake this study is a direct result of the dedication and excellence of Stockton's Holocaust and Genocides Studies graduate and undergraduate programs and the Holocaust Center.

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