(A post by one of my Nativ participants on the TimesofIsrael.com Blog. I was a staff member on this trip to Poland in January. Her words beautifully sum up my experience as well.)
There’s snow everywhere, as far as my eye can see, covering the ground and the 17,000 stones that memorialize the hundreds of thousands of my people that were murdered here. The slushy remnants of yesterday’s flurry is seeping into my boots, and my feet can feel the chilly dew through my three layers of socks.
Around me is destruction. The death of a civilization. The calculated cleansing because the right to live became a question for us, no longer a given. Treblinka has no remorse, nothing to comfort us. The eerie silence tortures my mind as I tried to picture what happened here, fighting back tears as I realize that had I been here, one of these stones would have been the only memory of my life left on earth.
I take in the horror in total shock, my body aching from the fatigue of being here, seeing these sites around Poland for days. I think back to Auschwitz, where I numbly walked through one of the largest human killing machines in history and saw faded photographs of entire families that were wiped out in madness. I picture the yeshiva of Lublin, once a great center for Torah scholarship and now reduced to half a bookcase of Talmud. I see the concentration camp Plaszow, which has now been turned into a park with a memorial. I remember Majdanek, where the Holocaust came to life for the first time, where I stood sobbing outside of the gas chambers because it was all too real, too vivid. The Shoah was no longer a collection of stories or a collective history, it was right before my eyes. All this time, everywhere I went, one thought ingrained itself into my mind, deepening the sense of hopelessness I felt: How did we survive this?
Source: Two Generations Later
By: Rachel Mitchell