Saturday, July 19, 2008
Auschwitz - the name alone instills horror. That is because today, we know of the heinous crimes that were committed here almost seventy years ago. In Nazi occupied Europe, some may have know everything that was going on here. Many did not. One thing was certain - this place aroused fear and terror among all and people knew that nothing good was happening in this place. While Auschwitz is a venue of tragedy, it is also a place of respect. Respect for the 1.5 million souls who were brutally murdered here.
Physically the place is sterile, cleaned up. Each of the buildings (or blocks as they are referred to) is restored and from the outside look somewhat nice. This is until your memory recalls what occurred here. For awhile I thought I wouldn't be moved. That was until I entered one block where all of the hallways were lined with photos of prisoners. The eyes of all the people in these photos pierced my spirit. These were regular people who died because of the religion they practiced or where they lived. Men's photos on one side, women on the other. Some young, mostly middle aged, but NO pictures of anyone my age (53). People my age never made it far enough for identification.
I am a Jew. "We" weren't identified by photo or ID card. "We" were taken directly from the railroad cars and, if still alive, to the gas chambers. The gas chambers were so scary. We didn't allow Av and Si to go in any of the buildings, so I went in alone as did lisa. This is not unlike a Jewish person in 1943; going to the gas chambers in masses yet all alone. Today the gas chambers and crematorium also have that air of sterility, unlike the killing machines they were not so long ago.
I have visited the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. They both left their mark on me. Auschwitz did too. It actually happened here.