Congratulations to Penn State student Emma Wolfe for her second place award in the Harris and Zelma Freedman Essay Contest! Emma’s winning paper is titled “The Uprising that Did Not Happen: The Belzec Extermination Camp and Operation Reinhard.”
Emma is majoring in Secondary Social Studies and History Education with minors in Special Education, Jewish Studies, and a certificate in Genocide and Holocaust Studies. Along with her full academic schedule, Emma is the current president of Student Pennsylvania State Education Association.
Learn more about Emma below!
Tell us about your award-winning essay! Why you decided to write on this topic and give us some insight into your research experience.
When given the task of my paper, I always knew I wanted to focus on Operation Reinhard in some aspect but felt that the entire Operation would be too broad to cover. After giving it some thought, I started to question how Belzec (the first camp of Operation Reinhard) never experienced an uprising compared to Sobibor and Treblinka. Starting my research I knew I had to cover the Euthanasia Program and the Wannsee Conference as they were the propelling components into the use of death camps in the Holocaust. But then I had to ask how I was going to understand the experience of Belzec and propose an answer to my research question based on two separate uprisings. My answer and evaluation of Belzec and the factors behind why they might not have had an uprising came from my analysis of factors leading to the uprisings in Sobibor and Treblinka. My biggest challenge however came from finding sources surrounding Belzec, as there are minimal resources available surrounding the camp as less people collectively survived.
Why did you decide to study Jewish Studies at Penn State?
Being an education major with a concentration in Genocide and Holocaust Studies, pursuing the Jewish Studies minor has allowed me to dive deeper into my concentration to ensure that I will be well prepared to accurately convey this information to my students.
What has been your favorite part of the program?
I really enjoy how diverse Jewish Studies truly is and how I am always able to find something that peaks my interest and challenges my learning and perceptions.
Which JSP class has been your favorite and why?
I have really enjoyed JST 128N as we got to analyze how the Holocaust has been portrayed throughout literature and media and the themes that are reflected through it.
Do you have any advice for students who are interested in becoming Jewish Studies students?
Always have an open mind, these courses are going to challenge your thinking and you need to let go of some of the things you’ve already learned.
What accomplishment at Penn State are you most proud of?
I had the opportunity to present research to peers and instructors within the History department in the Fall of 2021. I conducted my research on the Armenian Genocide and how the monuments could possibly have symbolism related to gender.
Where is your favorite place in State College (on and off campus)?
Definitely go check out Sowers Café off campus 🙂