A Witness to it All

During J-Term 2018, 286 students and 29 program leaders will participate in one of Luther's 17 courses around the globe. Although it's impossible to keep up with everyone, these blogs are designed to provide glimpses into our students' adventures.

Take a look at the course descriptions, itineraries, and leaders to learn the details of each exciting trip. Most importantly, read the blogs to experience life alongside our traveling students.

J-Term Highlights

Check out these highlighted posts about unforgettable moments, lessons learned, and life-changing experiences!

My name is Alec Olson and I am a sophomore nursing major from Lakeville, Minnesota. 

After getting packed up, eating breakfast, and saying goodbye to the British friends we had made, we were on the road. We left the Centrum Dialogue in Oświeçim, Poland and were making our way toward Kraków, Poland. Before we got too far away from the area, we payed a visit to the Marian Kolodziej Art Exhibition in Harmeze, Poland.

William Miles discusses the difference between dark and darker tourism in his article “Auschwitz: Museum Interpretation and Darker Tourism.” Darker tourism consists of visiting the actual sites of atrocities and horror. Dark tourism is visiting sites associated with, but not directly the site of atrocities and horror. The last few days, our class has been visiting sites of darker tourism at both Auschwitz and Birkenau. These sites is where millions were murdered for the simple “crime” of being born. Today, we have continued our look at darker tourism by visiting the site of Marian Kolodziej's Art Exhibition. This was built atop the site where ashes from Auschwitz victims were spread.

The exhibition building at an external glance gives no hints to what lay inside. Upon entering, we stepped into the mind of Holocaust  survivor Marian Kolodziej. It was plain to see that he was a primary witness to something unspeakable in its horror. The drawings that fill the exhibit depict the death and decay that was all too common in Auschwitz. By showing piles of desperate, corpse-like figures reaching to the sky for salvation, and then having them fall down to what can be perceived as the living hell that victims lived through. This is the way Kolodziej illustrates his memory.

One depiction stands out from all the rest: A scene of emaciated inmates desperately trying to measure their bread rations upon a pile of their fellow comrades holds a central location in the exhibit. When asked of its meaning, Kolodziej replied that the drawing was the most important drawing in the whole exhibit. He continues, saying that the scales are representative of how we live our lives. We must be sure to balance the good and the bad in our actions, lest they result in causing harm to others. In viewing this exhibit, I also learned the backstory behind the artist himself. Marian Kolodziej, prisoner 432. A survivor of Auschwitz and other camps. He was arrested as a political prisoner during World War II and the Holocaust.

After the war, Kolodziej became a stage designer, but he was haunted by the memories that he carried with him of his time in the camps.  Kolodziej then suffered a stroke, preventing him from being able to speak and giving him the idea of drawing out his memories. He made it very clear however that he did not draw these images simply as art. In his own words “This is not an exhibit, nor art, nor images, but words contained in design.”

After leaving the exhibition, our class proceeded onwards to Kraków and had a relaxing evening of warm drinks and well deserved rest.


Alec Olson
Artwork by Marian Kolodziej
Marian Kolodziej illustrates his memory of measuring bread on scales.