Travel With Purpose: Redstone’s Trip to Poland 

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Education is an important part of our culture at Redstone. Our dedicated Education Committee diligently works to facilitate discussions, provide resources, and create unique learning opportunities centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

In 2020, when instances of antisemitism were sharply rising in North America and Europe, Bailey and Carly, the co-founders of Redstone and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, started searching for an educational experience that they could share with the REDSQUAD. This experience would allow people to journey to Poland and retrace the steps of their grandparents who had endured the horrors of the Holocaust. 

Top: Boxcars were the first place of death for many during the Holocaust. The bare freight cars often became a suffocation chamber for some of the people (100 or more at a time) who were squeezed into it. Bottom: The Majdanek Concentration and Death Camp also served as a storage facility for items taken from victims of other Holocaust death camps. The heaps of shoes found there serve as a poignant and enduring reminder of the countless lives lost during this tragic period in history. 

“For us, it was our way to honour our grandparents, to do our part, even if small, to ensure the world ‘never forgets’ what can happen when hate and intolerance exist.. While it is incredible that so many programs exist for the Jewish community to bear witness to the atrocities of the Nazis, it is critical that those not as connected to the Holocaust get to experience it too. The Jewish community is small. Educating people on our dark history is something we feel obligated to do and it is something Redstone will remain committed to doing in the future.” – Carly.   

Walking into the gas chamber at Auschwitz. The Nazis killed millions of Jews in gas vans or in stationary gas chambers 

In July 2023, they came across an Instagram post about a new Poland experience called ‘Travel with Purpose’. This program was open to individuals of all faiths and backgrounds. Initially budgeting for two members of the REDSQUAD to participate, Bailey and Carly ultimately made the decision to offer this opportunity to all interested members who were available to attend. 

In August 1941, the Nazis gathered the 1400 Jewish residents of Tykocin in the town’s main square. Women and children were taken away in trucks, while the men were led to Łopuchowo forest, where the town’s Jewish community was brutally killed and buried in mass graves. This tragic event marked the end of hundreds of years of vibrant Jewish history in Tykocin and surrounding areas. Today, as you stand by the green square fences that enclose the mass grave, it’s a haunting reminder of the hundreds who lost their lives in this atrocity.  

Below is a recap of this incredible experience from our teammate, Ryan Jones: 

“Never Again” 

Treblinka, one of the most fatal and efficient of the Nazi death camps. In the short 13 months that it was open, the Nazis murdered at least 900,000 Jews there. The camp itself was completely destroyed by the Germans but now stands various memorials honouring those killed. 

“I find myself profoundly moved to share my recent journey to Poland, a pilgrimage that immersed me in the heart-wrenching history of the Holocaust. Along with my three other colleagues from Redstone, we embarked on a tour that took us to places that bear witness to humanity’s darkest hours – Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek, and other sites where the atrocities of the past echo through time. These places stand as haunting reminders of what was lost and the monstrous brutality of the Nazi regime.  

Arbeit macht frei (German: work will set you free). Before the war, the slogan was used in Germany in programs to reduce mass unemployment. After the Nazis took power, the phrase appeared at the entrances to other concentration camps and ghettos aside from Auschwitz, including Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Flossenbürg, Gross‑Rosen and Theresienstadt. 

As we toured the Jewish quarters and former Ghetto of Krakow and Warsaw what struck me most was not just the current-day absence of what were once large vibrant communities but also the stories that emerged from the shadows – stories of compassion, resilience, and the unwavering human spirit. We learned of small but significant acts of resistance; flickers of hope that refused to be snuffed out despite being lost in a sea of choiceless choices. We learned about remarkable individuals such as Janus Korczak, whose actions during WW2 showed selflessness and compassion amidst the darkness.   

“You do not leave a sick child in the night, and you do not leave children at a time like this.” 

A memorial statue of Janus Korczak. After spending years working as a principal of an orphanage in Warsaw, in 1942 refused sanctuary and made the journey with the children to Treblinka extermination camp, where they all perished. 

As we visited the historical sites that connected us to Jewish life and death in Poland during the Holocaust we shared stories, offered prayers, lit candles, sang songs, danced, and raised our glasses to life, allowing us to reconcile what happened and move toward healing. This trip left a mark on my soul as I bore witness to history, not just its tragedies, but also its tales of courage and compassion.  

The Nazi’s prisoners endured harsh living conditions in leaky, poorly insulated barracks constructed from brick or wood. They slept on three-tiered wooden bunk beds, theoretically designed for three individuals but often accommodated 10, or more. 

Our journey didn’t end with the past. We also had the privilege of meeting members of the current-day Jewish communities in Poland such as JCC Krakow who are helping Ukrainian war refugees, MI POLIN create art, and the community young and old at Nożyk Synagogue who are practicing their faith proudly. In a corner of the world where such freedoms were once denied, they now stand as symbols of hope, proving that even after the darkest chapters of history, the human spirit can triumph and rebuild.”

“Every person has a name” 

The six million Jews who were murdered in the holocaust have no graves and no tombstones. The Book of Names lists the names of the murdered and serves as an eternal memorial. Because entire communities were wiped out, it will never be possible to compile a full list. 

To close off this blog, here are some words from our President: 

“As we reflect on the recent pogroms in Israel, let us remember the lessons of the past. Let us stand together against hatred and intolerance, honoring the memory of those who perished by fostering a world where kindness, compassion, understanding and humanity prevail. Carly and I are committed to continued Holocaust education. We call on other Jewish (and non-Jewish) business leaders to do the same. Education and tolerance is the way forward. If you have any questions about the Poland Travel with Purpose experience for your team in 2024, please connect with me ASAP.” – Bailey  

The REDSQUAD in front of Ghetto Heroes Monument at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This monument commemorates the first Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. 

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