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Frames: College Admission Essay Sample

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“Quiet on the set. Camera ready? Sound ready? Roll camera… speed. Action!” This series of sentence fragments is used to get a film camera recording on a movie set. Ever since my first media class in seventh grade, I knew that media arts was my passion and would become my future profession. So it was not unusual for me to view my experiences as a filmmaker when I visited Eastern Europe last summer. With a group of fifty other Jewish teenagers, I visited twelve Nazi concentration camps, death camps, and ghettos, including Auschwitz, Terezin, Ponar, Kovno, Tikochin, Lupuchova Forest, Treblinka, Warsaw, Majdanek, Birkenau.

Film is recorded at twenty four frames per second. During my studies at Northwestern University this past summer, I learned that each and every frame is important. Like the frames, each experience on my journey through Eastern Europe has led to my greater understanding of the importance of how the past will continue to be a living and influential entity that will shape my future.

Frame 1: Treblinka Extermination Camp, Poland

After a long bus ride, we stepped out into the sultry air. We observed a line of rocks representing the train tracks which used to hold the train cars of what would have been the victims’ last train ride. While fending off swarms of mosquitoes, we walked up to six large rocks bearing the famous words, “Never Again” in six languages for all people to understand. Just behind the six rocks were thousands of other rocks to represent the thousands of people killed at the death camp per day. In broken English, our tour guide told us that no one knows exactly how many people died at this camp, but estimates are that between 800,000 and 1,100,000 perished. Ninety-five percent were Jewish.

Frame 2: Auschwitz & Birkenau, Poland

Thunder was clapping as if it was the fire roaring in the cremation ovens. We walked through the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” (work will set you free) arches that gave a very false message to the Jews and the other prisoners. Though the camp was set up more as a museum, it was perhaps where my textbook understanding was enriched mostly by the sensory experience. The smell of death still lingers. The endless piles of confiscated shoes, which felt like hardened rubber, reminded me of how many souls were lost. Later that day, under a slight drizzle, we traveled to Birkenau. We saw the crematoria and witnessed the crumbling barracks where prisoners were forced to live on top of each other in slots of concrete beds. We left the camp on the same train tracks that had transported the Jews and others to their deaths. We sang Hebrew songs about freedom to show the world that the Jews survived the Holocaust and continue to thrive as a people today.

Frame 3: Lupachova Forest, Lithuania

Our bus drove through mile after mile of a forest with incredibly tall trees. We walked out to a fenced area where the ashes of thousands of murdered victims lie to this day. It is said that every Jew should visit Israel once in his or her lifetime. That didn’t happen for these victims of the Holocaust as Israel did not exist prior to 1948. Our Israeli staff members brought some soil from Israel to spread over the ashes to symbolically help those who perished “visit Israel.” We also heard from an eighty year old survivor named Eulich. He recalled his escape from the camp in the late 1930s. All the Jews from his town were herded into the forest and gunned down by the Nazis. He played dead for hours until the guards left, found a Nazi uniform, ran for miles and finally took a train to Italy and safety. After hearing his story, I learned that there were some happy endings to this horrific period in world history.

The collage of graphic images, personal narratives, photos, videos, and statistics overwhelmed many of us on the trip. This spiritual journey changed my perspective on the world and my place in it. Prior to the trip, I had only a textbook understanding of the horrors of genocide with respect to Hitler’s “Final Solution.” After my journey, I felt a moral responsibility to expand my understanding of the murder of not only the six million Jews, but also of the five million others who perished.

A good filmmaker thoroughly knows his subject. To learn more about the Holocaust and other atrocities, I am taking a course entitled “Facing History and Ourselves,” offered to a select group of seniors. This three period course explores prejudice, injustice and genocide throughout history. Its major focus is the Holocaust, but it also investigates more recent genocides including those occurring in Darfur and Uganda. In addition, this course gives me the opportunity to spend a semester volunteering at an organization of my choice, allowing me to pursue my passion for community service.

“Cut!” Both film and critical life experiences offer an opportunity for reflection. My trip taught me that despite one of the darkest periods in our history, good triumphs over evil. The Jewish people survived and have gone on to make great contributions to our society. As a living legacy of those who were lost, I feel that I must spread the idea that we must take the time to learn about other cultures, celebrate diversity, and embrace what unites us as human beings. While continuing to expand my understanding of people from all different backgrounds, I look forward to contributing what I’ve learned and experienced with my new college community.

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