With the goal of perpetuating the legacy of the Holocaust and of describing the incredible miracle that is the State of Israel, I will share excerpts from my journal. I will post some more every few day
April 31st, 2008
We landed in Krakow late morning. We drove to the Placzow labour camp in the outskirts of the city. Nothing remains of this torture facility and mass grave. Across the streets from this place of evil are restaurants and shops. Without the stone monuments commemorating the murder that went on there, the Polish sunbathers might tempt you into believing that this is nothing but a lovely park. One of the survivors who accompanied us on our trip, told us about her experiences in Placzow and how her little cousin of 6 was shot by the Nazis on the very ground on which we sat, and how his resting place is unknown. It was extremely moving.
We toured the Kazimicz region of Krakow, the Jewish Quarter. We saw the synagogue of the Ramah, and the medieval cemetery attached to it, full of legendary rabbis. The stories told of the amazing feats and miracles that they performed were quite amazing. Krakow had such a rich Jewish history; everything remains he same, with lovely synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish symbols- except there are no more Jews. It is incredible to this that an entire community of tens of thousands of people just vanished, gone. We saw the remains of the ghetto and were witnesses to how this most vibrant community was forced into such a small area. Jewish life in Krakow has disappeared. And the Poles continue to live, unabated.
Auschwitz, the most evil place on Earth, is a museum. Gone are the trains, the snarling dogs, screams, ashes rising from the chimney. It is cleaned up, sanitized, almost plastic. It was very difficult to imagine the horrors that went on there through the crowds of marches and giggling girls. Auschwitz left me cold as we rushed from exhibit to exhibit with barely time to process. It was very disturbing to see a place that was literally hell on Earth, behind glass, with signs and displays.
The March itself was not what I expected. It was hard to maintain the mood because of the enormous mass of people. It was inspiring, though, to see 15 000 Jews draped in Israeli flags marching the same march of death between Auschwitz and Birkenau.
Birkenau was an unsettling sight. One enters the accursed gates to see a line of trees, train tracks, barracks and ruined chimneys. At the end of the camp, we had a ceremony with survivors, the IDF chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, chief rabbi of Tel-Aviv, HaRav Meir Lau, and a choir. Ashkenazi, as head of the IDF, vowed that never again will Jews be weak and powerless and that never again shall we allow Jewish blood to be spillt cheaply. The chazzan led us in a moving prayer and I’m sure that he pierced the heavens with his cries.
Finally, we stood in a cold and dark barrack and lit yarzheit candles. Survivors shared with us their experiences. It was chilling to be in the very place where they endured such torment. Afterwards, we prayed a quick minchah in the barracks at Birkenau. Imagine the beauty and absurdity of the scene: Jewish prayer continues in a place where our foes tried to wipe us out but 63 years ago.