AALP Class 20 North American Study Tour: Freedom is Not Free

Date: April 25, 2024

Author: Maggie Pendleton


Freedom Is Not Free

After arriving in Washington, DC on Friday and spending time discussing agriculture and politics, Saturday was a day of reflection as we toured museums and historical monuments. Our first stop of the day was the White House Visitor Centre where we viewed historical artifacts, videos, and photos associated with the White House and past Presidents. From there we walked to the Holocaust Memorial Museum for a self-guided tour. There was a noticeable silence over the museum as the crowd read, watched and listened to the atrocities that were committed during this time. It was a sobering experience to be reminded how easily fear and propaganda can manipulate a population into ostracizing and persecuting an entire race, as well as those deemed inferior.

During WWII the Nazi regime murdered 6 million European Jews, between 250,000 - 500,000 Roma, approximately 250,000 mentally and physically disabled Germans, 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war as well as an untold number of Poles, political opponents, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexual men. WWII was the largest and deadliest war with an estimated 85 million people killed or injured. There was a quote along the tour from Lutheran Minister and early Nazi supporter Martin Neimoller that felt relevant as global tensions continue to escalate, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” Although many of Neimoller’s views were controversial he is remembered for his public acknowledgement of his moral failures and mistakes. As leaders, it is important that we use our voice to encourage positive change, as well as to speak out against injustice and immorality. Moreover, we need to acknowledge our own failures so they can be used as learning experiences for others.

From the Holocaust Museum we headed for lunch and a free afternoon. As we walked to lunch class members shared family history and stories of those who lived during WWII and the memories they passed down.