Billy Kasper was given a similar task a year later. As a sophomore, he found the Nazi belt buckle no less emotionally troubling, and it led him to ponder the nature of war.
“The belt is so intimidating because all I can think of is the horrible acts the Nazi soldiers committed during World War II,” he wrote in November 2007. “I question if the soldier that possessed this belt buckle worked at a concentration camp. I realize that some soldiers in the German Army were forced into their positions, but I also realize that some volunteered and often enjoyed the horrid acts that the Nazis devoted their lives to.”
To English Prof. Karen Stewart, creator of the assignment, discomfort was more than a byproduct of the exercise. It was part of the process. In addition to distributing objects people aren’t accustomed to handling, she left the writing instructions open-ended. Her intention was to “shake up” the class, and make them bring their own emotions and critical-thinking skills to the writing. Objects hold powerful meaning to people, Stewart said. This was clear from the moment students reached into the box. continue