When the students visit the Holocaust museum, accompanied by Renee Firestone and Gerda Seifer, this student is horrified to see images of thousands of bodies buried in a single grave. She wonders how people could have let these horrors happen. She realizes that people tend to only stand up to defend what affects them personally, and that the result of public indifference can be tragedies such as those seen in concentration camps.
This student comes to terms with a problem of collective action: how can so many people stand by without doing anything when they know that others are being hurt? This is a problem that affects all wars, genocides, and inequalities, as people are often unwilling to sacrifice their own well-being or lives to save others.
When she and Gerda see the cattle cars, Gerda starts to cry, as she remembers the impossible quantities of people who were forced inside them. Gerda and the student have to cross a cattle car to access the next room, and Gerda feels scared, imagining her own family in one of them. After this experience, this student realizes that she will no longer watch passively as other people get hurt, even if it doesn’t affect her personally. Instead, she commits to standing up to injustice whenever she sees it.
Gerda’s fear at seeing the cattle car reveals the emotional hold that the past still has on her. Seeing Gerda’s reaction makes the student feel personally involved in the situation, and this empathy moves her to want to defend her, as well as others who might be experiencing such violence. Witnessing other people’s pain, it appears, is a strong motivator for fighting against injustice.