Sunday, May 18, 2008

Krakow, Placzow and Auschwitz-Birkenau

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.

May 1st

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.


Papa Frank said...

Incredible beginning! Those places must feel so cold and brutal and yet the crowd of Jews around you is such a testimony to the strong surviving spirit of the Jewish people and the failure of those who sought to destroy that spirit. Also, the strength of the survivors of these places to not shy away from them but to return and tell their experiences -- these are people of the bravest sort.

Progressive Pinhead said...

The saddest part of the legacy of the Holocaust is that not even its victims have learned the lessons of the evils of racisms and hate.

Papa Frank said...

young activist -- that was very rude. What you won't admit is that the politics of countries with muslims ruling them still cheer the holocaust and wish it would have wiped Jews out completely. They publicly call for the eradication of Jews.

Deborah said...


Thank you for sharing the experience of the first leg of your trip. The wound will be evident forever; however, never again, BK... we must do everything we can to ensure it never happens AGAIN! Much prayer and vigilence is necessary... a very proactive spiritual and political stance needs to remain in place.

Glory and honor to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob forever. I praise Him and thank Him for the Jewish people... and I thank Him for making them the apple of His eye and heirs of His promise! Baruch HaShem!


Yehudi said...

Wow...what is there to say? G-d bless you, achi.

WomanHonorThyself said...

stunning post Bar..welcome back and thanks for this journal...Am Yisrael Chai my friend.

Avi said...

YA: You are welcome to come here and debate but that statement is beyond the pale. I will not tolerate such vile slander of the Jewish people here. You know little behind your computer. You spit on the memory of the 6 million brutalized and murdered Jews. Israel is one of the most tolerant and peaceful nations on Earth and certainly a shining light and example to the entire world. I demand that you take back such a disgusting accusation.

Before the trip, I would have let this slide. After seeing the horrors of the Holocaust and being able to truly appreciate the miracle that is Israel, such statements are evil. You are essentially condoning genocide against the Jewish people when you call for the end of Israel. Until you apolgize for such a thing, ou have no business on this site.

Rita Loca said...

One can only swear to never ever let such a horror to happen again!

Anonymous said...

Amazing, BK!
I have had the honor of sitting with one Holocaust survivor, and it was a beautiful experience.

I'm so glad you had the opportunity to take this trip.

Progressive Pinhead said...

There is no basis is in my comments for your accusations. I have not called for the destruction of Israel, I have not condoned the Holocaust as you charge, and I have not slandered the Jewish people. When you make baseless accusations of anti-Semetism you dilute the value of those accusations when there is a genuine case of prejudice against the Jewish people.

If you think that suggesting we learn from the Holocaust is an evil thing to say then that reflects more on your beliefs then on mine. In fact, by not learning from the Holocaust and trying to exploit it as a political tool it is you who is spitting on the memory of those who perished.

Progressive Pinhead said...

It is people like John Hagee that you should be targeting for being anti-Semetic, not peace activists.

Avi said...

YA, would you care to clarify what you meant by your comment? I understood your insinuation to mean that the victimes of the Holocaust ie. the Jewish people are still perpetrating hatred and genocide as the Nazis did. This is a form of the 'Palestinian' "Holocaust" myth which is particularly heinous. If that is what you meant, I demand an apology.