Our delegation lit memorial candles along the way, on a trip that forced observers to truly come to terms with how recent the Holocaust was. Yet stunningly, even with the evidence there are Holocaust deniers. ‘Anita’ (pictured with me below)– an enchanting, energy driven Holocaust survivor– joined us and I beheld the pain in her eyes at different intervals.
I stood in a gas chamber at Auschwitz which will remain with me for life. 700 people were gassed in there at once, up to 10,000 per day. At first it took five days for victims to die, eventually taking only 20 minutes after scientists were brought in to improve the efficiency of the system. I stood beside fingernail scratches still on the walls of that chamber. Just outside was the crematorium and beside that was a pond—surprisingly shallow–still blackened from the ashes lying below. Our group stood around this pond where pieces of human bone could be seen in the surrounding dirt.
I saw outdoor pieces of straight metal to serve as hooks for people to hang on, their arms wrenched backwards and left to die of agony and exposure to the cold elements in winter. Living conditions were disgusting, especially the long lines of holes cut into cold concrete—inches apart—serving as toilets for innocent prisoners of Auschwitz. The goal: to dehumanize the Jews.
Amid stark visuals, we listened to tour guides’ stories about the scores of children that were murdered, people separated from their families, Nazi promises of resettlement as hopeful Jews were packed into train cars, oblivious that they had boarded death trains with their precious children in tow.
Now I read an article of special interest to me after my trip, one which likens the Warsaw ghetto to Gaza, prompting justifiable reaction from a Holocaust survivor in the face of spawning anti-Semitism.
it is the most vile expression of hatred toward the Jewish people and an insult to the victims of the Holocaust in general. As a Holocaust survivor, I am greatly injured and insulted
Such a comparison is beyond insensitive as it is misinformed…..
The Warsaw Ghetto was designed by the Nazis for annihilation through starvation, disease and finally total extermination of its inhabitants. Gaza is an armed camp waiting for missiles to arrive so it can attack Israel.
I am still processing my personal experiences in Berlin and Krakow and grapple with the question: what do people visiting these sites take away with them? Trying to decipher the capacity for human brutality, cruelty and hatred is a futile task for most, yet the recognition of its existence should keep us vigilant. The most common sentiment I heard with our group and beyond is a valid one: that it is our responsibility to not be complacent bystanders in the face of human sufferin,g particularly in the face of genocidal atrocities. Yet personally I see this as one part of the lesson. The second being the recognition that the Jews today are being ganged up on globally as the stumbling block to world peace where the Middle East is a pivotal point. The Jews are victims to massive propaganda drives, promulgated by Islamists. The “Jewish problem” were the words used by Hitler and Nazi forces that ‘found’ their way into the mainstream. That ‘problem’ was dealt with through the death camps. How much longer will our world today tolerate the threats of Iran, Hamas and the Islamist agenda which targets the Jewish people and against the only democracy in the Middle East?