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Lessons From The Past

Twelve cadets head to Auschwitz to learn about military ethics and the meaning of ‘Never Again.’
Doug Chandler – Special To The Jewish Week
Participants in the Academy Scholars program visiting Ours to Fight for: American Jews in the Second World War at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. photos by melanie einzig

John G. Shaffo, a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, has no doubt that he will one day lead troops into battle.

And when he does, Shaffo, 21, said he will carry lessons from the Holocaust with him, thanks to the annual U.S. Service Academy Program, which uses World War II as the basis for educating future military personnel about the ethics of war.

“We may not always make the right decisions,â€? Shaffo said earlier this month as he and 11 other cadets toured New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, one of the stops in the program’s four-day orientation period before a two-week trip to Poland. But, he added, learning about the Holocaust and seeing how others acted “is the best preparation we can possibly get.â€?

Run by the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation of New York, the program stresses the importance of wartime morality and battlefield ethics. Now in its third year, the program begins in Washington and New York, where cadets from each military branch visit such places as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the New York Tolerance Center and the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.