October 31 – November 3, 2020


Zen Peacemakers International is a 501(c)3 non-profit religious organization registered in the US EIN #133030252

About the Plunge

Executive Directors Message:

Dear Zen Peacemaker friends,

We know many of you are interested to attend our 2021 retreats, whether our Native American / Zen Peacemakers Plunge or our Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat. We can say definitively we will offer these events. For reasons we are all aware of, we cannot say with certainty yet if we will be able to meet in person or virtually.

I can say confidently that being in person in South Dakota and Poland is our sincere desire. Everyone’s health and safety are top of mind. I promise to keep you informed as we take in more information and make decisions.

Tentatively, we are holding the last week in July for the Native American Plunge and the first week in November for the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate these uncertain times.

With kind regards and deep bows,
Geoff ShĹŤun O’Keeffe
Executive Director
Zen Peacemakers International

Auschwitz: An Intimate Plunge

When you participate in a Bearing Witness retreat, you enter a carefully crafted container held by various teams:

Spirit Holders learn and listen to the pulse of the retreat during the retreat, and adjust the schedule accordingly. This role is specific to the retreat they have been chosen for. They review the retreat structure and schedule and make recommendations for changes. The Spirit Holders include (1) individuals whose lives are deeply infused with the place and theme of the retreat, (2) Zen teachers or Masters with extensive experience in the practice and teaching of the Three Tenets and (3) Those with a particular role, such as Head of Logistical Staff and Head Council Trainer.

Below, 2019 Spirit Holders pictured L to R: Roshi Genro Gauntt (USA); Roshi Barbara Weggmueller (Switzerland); Roshi Cornelius Collande (Germany)






Clergy. The retreat’s intent is to be multi-faith and respectful of all spiritual paths. The retreat Clergy are designated leaders of faiths, entrusted with specific liturgical and ceremonial aspects of the retreat schedule.  They are also available as resources to the participants during the retreat.

Clergy pictured L to R: Fr. Manfred Deselaers (Germany);  Sensei Koho Mello (Brazil/Switzerland)


Council Facilitators lead the daily council groups- sharing circles that give space for sharing one’s experience of the retreat with others. These facilitators have trained with the Center for Council and are under the guidance and supervision of the head council trainer.

With any questions, please contact [email protected]

Forthcoming retreat dates:

2021- November 1st-6th

2022-October 31st- November 6th

Many, many books have been published concerning the Holocaust. Those listed below are particularly recommended because they are very powerful personal accounts of bearing witness and/or raise complex moral and spiritual issues. For first time attendees, we highly recommend that you read at least one of the following books before attending the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat:

Personal Testimonies

Ka-Tzetnik 135633, Shivitti: A Vision (A must read – recommend by Bernie Glassman)

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (also published as If This Is a Man)

Elie Wiesel, Night

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941- 1943

Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After

Claude Lanzmann, Shoah – An Oral History of the Holocaust

Jean-Francois Steiner, Treblinka

Wladyslaw Szpilman, The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945

Ka-Tzetnik 135633. Kaddish

Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess

Essays, treatises, contemplations

Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

Jean Amery, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities

Helen Epstein, Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters

of Survivors

Lawrence L. Langer, Admitting the Holocaust: Collected Essays

Lawrence L. Langer, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory

Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

Kathleen Battke (ed.), Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz w/Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers


Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: A New History

Literary Works

Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

Yaffa Eliach, Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Bernhard Schlink, The Reader

Ursula Hegi, Stones from the River


Again, a lot of films have been made connected to the holocaust. This selection is personal. We have tried to include films made in various countries.

Son of Saul (László Nemes; Hungary 2015)

Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg; USA 1993)

The Pianist (Roman Polanski ; Poland, France, Germany, UK 2002)

Elle s’appelait Sarah (Sarah’s Key) (Gilles Paquet-Brenner; France 2010)

La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) (Roberto Benigni ; Italy 1997)

Lore (Cate Shortland; Australia, Germany, UK 2012)

Au revoir les enfants (Goodbye, Children) (Louis Malle; France 1987)

Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (The Final Days) (Marc Rothemund ; Germany 2005)

Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) (Alain Resnais ; France 1955 – documentary)

We’ve begun collecting stories of the Auschwitz retreat from outside sources. This section will be updated continually: