Kampa finds Holocaust ‘more than a chapter in world history’
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN - “When the last survivor passes on, who will be there to share the stories and thus make Holocaust history tangible, accessible, alive, and meaningful?”
That is what Sam Kampa asked in his award-winning essay, The Stories, that won him a $10,000 scholarship and a trip to the new Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
The scholarship opportunity was part of the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation’s Holocaust Remembrance Project, which exists “to ensure the defeat of the evils that led to the past horrors of the Holocaust and to create a never-ending commitment to universal respect for diversity and human dignity.”
In his essay, Kampa begins by writing about a personal experience as an 11-year-old talking with Jewish women over matzah ball soup at an inter-faith Seder dinner at Temple Israel in Minneapolis.
He later writes about the “faint blue markings” that would tell one of the Polish woman’s story as a young girl in the Auschwitz-Birkenau work camp, where roughly 1.6 million Jews were killed by Nazis during the Holocaust.
Kampa’s personal experience with a Holocaust survivor and the Holocaust unit taught in eighth grade history helped him to define why it’s important to remember the tragedies of the Holocaust.
“The stories make Holocaust education real to students and adults so we can effectively prevent genocide in the future,” Kampa said.
“Facts and figures can be forgotten, but the stories tend to live on,” he added.
Not only was his essay, “The Stories,” chosen as one of the top 10 of the 7,000 essays submitted from students in grades nine through 12 nationwide, he was also selected as the first-place scholarship winner, and received $10,000.
The ironic part of the story is that when Kampa received the call informing him he was one of the top 10 that would be going to Chicago to visit the new Holocaust museum, he was in Germany on a Bethel University choir trip, riding on a bus by the Buchenwald concentration camp at that exact moment.
Kampa was actually on the choir trip at the time of his graduation.
Though Kampa is a 2009 Dassel-Cokato graduate, he was attending post-secondary education at Bethel his senior year.
Kampa accepted this scholarship award at an awards luncheon in Chicago June 25, the fourth and final day of his trip.
He received the Herman Chasnow Memorial Scholarship, in honor of the Eastern Russian immigrant who learned during World War II that nearly all of the Jews in his village died in the Holocaust. Later in life, Chasnow wanted others to learn about the Holocaust.
This scholarship was funded by Chasnow’s son, Robert, who is a partner at Holland & Knight; and Robert’s wife, Linda.
Illinois Holocaust Museum and Ed Center
While in Chicago June 22 through June 25, Kampa spent time at the new Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
The new “world-class” museum is “dedicated to preserving the memories of those lost in the Holocaust and teaching current generations about the need to fight hatred, indifference and genocide in today’s world,” according to its web site, www.ilholocaustmuseum.org.
An interesting aspect of the museum, was the mood lighting used in the museum which goes from dark for despair to light for hope, Kampa explained.
One of the permanent exhibits features more than 500 artifacts, documents, and photographs, along with testimonials from Chicago area survivors.
Also in the exhibit is a German rail car representing the type the Nazis used during deportation to the concentration camps.
One of the artifacts Kampa recalls from the museum is a partially-burned piece of religious manuscript that was recovered from Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, a night when the Nazis terrorized Jewish communities.
What impacted him the most however, was hearing the personal testimonies from six Holocaust survivors.
He was even able to share some one-on-one time with one of them, making the Holocaust even that much more real for Kampa, he said.
“These were real people who had gone through this, and to be able to hear their stories was both inspirational and highly informative,” Kampa said.
The impact was great, due in large part to their increasing age.
“The time I spent was precious,” Kampa said, in reference to one of the survivors, Ava Schieber, used art as a way of expressing her emotions after the Holocaust.
Schieber gave Kampa a piece of her art in remembrance of their meeting.
Recognized by Congress
Kampa was “flattered” to hear his name was mentioned in the US House of Representatives by a local legislative official.
Michele Bachmann (R-Sixth District) recognized Kampa at the June 17 US House of Representatives as one of the top 10 finalists for the 2009 Holocaust Remembrance Project national essay contest.
She read the following excerpts from Kampa’s essay: “I discovered that the Holocaust was not a distant, abstract occurrence that merely comprised yet another chapter in world history.
“Rather, the Holocaust forever transformed the actual lives of men, women, and children human beings who were subjected to inhuman sadism.
“When the last survivor passes on, who will be there to share the stories and thus make Holocaust history tangible, accessible, alive, and meaningful?”
Bachmann continued reading from his essay. “The answer is clear: we must take the next step, for it is absolutely imperative that we educate future generations and perpetuate Holocaust remembrance by reiterating their stories . . . Forgotten history profits nothing, and the mistakes of the past will become the mistakes of the present if we neglect to remember.
“When we forget the stories, it is easy to lapse into old sins.”
Bachmann further addressed Congress (as written in the Congressional Record article 117) by saying, “The recent anti-Semitic tragedy at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC reaffirms Mr. Kampa’s timely essay.
“He reminds us of the need to continuously remember the tragedy and the events that led up to the disaster that ended the lives of millions of individuals and impacted so many more.”
“I want to commend Mr. Kampa not only for his impressive accomplishment, but for his insightful thoughts into how our world can avoid another monumental catastrophe, such as the Holocaust.”
To read Kampa’s full essay, visit www.holocaust.hklaw.com and click on his name under the first place winners.