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CNU professor discovers more evidence of resistance fights at Auschwitz concentration camp during Holocaust

Dr. Richard Freund and his students conducted research at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, learning more about how Jews fought during the Holocaust.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — When Dr. Richard Freund isn’t teaching at Christopher Newport University, he’s working on archaeological projects overseas.

“I’ve done places in Israel and Spain and Greece, but in the past 15 years, I’ve been working on the Holocaust,” he said.

His most recent project over the summer was a research trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

“People think that it’s just a place of death but it’s really a place of great courage,” Freund said.

He said it also represents resistance against Nazi leadership during the Holocaust. He learned more about uprisings among the Jews at the camp in October 1944.

“They destroyed crematoria," he said. "They destroyed gas chambers.”

He and his students who traveled with him found more evidence of those fights at the concentration camp. Freund said documents are still hidden throughout the camp that outline how Jewish people tried to escape, efforts that have remained unseen until now.

These stories inspired student Mikaela Martinez Dettinger, who traveled with the professor on this project.

“A lot of the resistance movements that we learned about focused on the leadership of people who were my age, which shows Millennials and Gen Z people who are my age, even though they might not remember the Holocaust, we have the same power,” she said.

She said this project opened her eyes to the “fight for freedom” that is missing in history for so long.

“The Holocaust is more than just what the Nazis did," she said. "If you focus on the story from the perspective of Hitler and the rise of Nazi leadership, you’re missing more than half of the story.”

This information will be displayed in the university's new exhibit, "Auschwitz Oświęcim." It includes photos provided by the Virginia Holocaust Museum. 

These images were last on public display five years ago in Richmond.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Christopher Newport University Bertram & Gladys Aaron Professorship in Jewish Studies, United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula, and the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

It opens on October 27, following The Significance of Auschwitz lecture at the Trible Library Theater.

The exhibit is one of the events in Christopher Newport’s two-week-long Reflections on the Holocaust. Other events include an opera called "Trial of God."