University Students Renew their Commitment to Judaism in Poland

Dov Landau, a Holocaust survivor gave a first-hand account of the horrors of Auschwitz to Chabad on Campus International’s Living Links trip. The 89-year-old led a group of 65 university students and staff through the very concentration camp he was interned in during the war.

Landau, the oldest of four brothers, was born in Brzesko, Poland. He was only 13 when the Nazis arrived in his small town, shortly afterwards, his mother and three brothers HY’D were deported and murdered. Dov Landau and his father survived a series of camps and ghettos before being deported to Auschwitz towards the end of 1943.

He was sent to the right by the “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele and was tattooed with the numbers 161400. Landau’s father was killed in Auschwitz leaving the 15-year-old alone in the world. He somehow managed to survived the “hell on earth” for over a year and as the Russians advanced, he was forced on a death march to Buchenwald. After several more months of horrors, he was liberated by the Americans.

The testimony from the elderly survivor, together with the inspirational talks and farbrengens by group leaders Rabbis Zalman Bluming, co-director of Chabad at the University of North Carolina and Duke and Mrs. Rivka Gurary, co-director of Chabad at SUNY Buffalo, left an indelible impression on the students. This was witnessed by the emotional messages posted on social media during and after the trip.

“I am forever grateful to Chabad on Campus for this once in a lifetime opportunity. It is important to learn about the story of the Jewish people, my people, and carry on the legacy that so many were unable to do,” posted Sammi Gropen, a student at Rowan University.

The group visited Shuls, Yeshivahs, cemeteries, ghettos, concentration camps and mass graves throughout Poland during the eight-day trip. The shluchim on the trip provided spiritual perspective during the emotional journey.

“On LivingLinks, students are starkly confronted with their Jewish history, heritage and legacy,” said Rabbi Yossy Gordon, Executive Vice President of Chabad on Campus International. “The tremendous emotional experience is channeled to a desire by the students to connect more closely with Judaism and commit themselves to go forth as proud Jews.”

Rabbi Yossi Witkes, Director of Living Links said that impact on of seeing the devastation is a need for the students to take action. “They see what happened to the Jews of Europe, and it creates a strong resolve to avenge them by increasing their Jewishness. It’s a transformative week for the students.”

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