Visit to Nazi death camps a moving trip for Dorseyville teacher
Dorseyville Middle School teacher Nanci Goldberg went to Europe last summer, but it wasn't a vacation.
Far from it — Goldberg toured a number of Nazi death camps in Poland, including the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“I didn't know what to expect. I did not come back the same person. It was the most intense seven days on the ground,” Goldberg said.
Their plane touched down at 1:30 in the afternoon. They immediately went to a Jewish cemetery and didn't stop. She carried her luggage until 7 p.m.
The teacher was part of a Classrooms Without Borders group which included students from Pittsburgh and West Virginia and adults from the United States and other copuntries, including Canada and England.
Classrooms Without Borders is an independently funded program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Goldberg is Jewish, but that was not a requirement for participation.
“It was the same for everybody. There was a huge impact whether they were Jewish or not,” Goldberg said. “People have more connection with the Holocaust than we can imagine.”
The former New Yorker found a memorial in her family's ancestral town, which was decimated, and her family name on a list at a camp. She makes the point many of the early victims of the Holocaust were Polish partisans.
“I cannot describe the information I got,” she said about the trip.
Her mission is to share that information, something for which she is fully prepared.
Nanci, 50, has taught art in the Fox Chapel Area School District for 25 years. Her favorite artistic medium is photography and she has won awards for her work.
She took many pictures on the Eastern European trip. She used images to express the reality of the camps: blackened barbed wire, railroad tracks, stark gray memorial stones.
She shares vivid photographic memories — a survivor with his camp identification number tattooed on his arm; summer heat radiating in the quiet woods where soldiers massacred the innocent.
“My obligation is to bear witness,” she said.
In addition, she brings her experiences home to Dorseyville. For more than three decades, eighth-graders there have participated in a Holocaust unit. Goldberg is working with the teachers to enhance the lessons.
Goldberg has a master's degree in educational leadership from Carnegie Mellon University. Her middle school art instruction includes a unit on taking pictures with iPads and photography enrichment courses. Goldberg also teaches phone-camera photography in the Fox Chapel Adult Education program.
In her downtime, Goldberg immerses herself in the history of the Holocaust. She is planning a trip to Israel to study art and culture.
“You are doomed to repeat history if you don't study it,” she said. The Holocaust unit “teaches sensitivity, tolerance, and the acceptance of others. As someone who is in education, it's important to keep telling the story.”