Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Warsaw Ghetto and Treblinka

May 6th

After a 3 hour bus ride from Lublin, we finally arrived in Warsaw. We visited the immense cemetery of Warsaw which dates back to medieval times and contains hundreds of thousands of people. The richness of the ancient city’s Jewish community is outstanding. The cemetery is full of old monuments and tombs of famous rabbis, scholars, professors and writers. We toured the cemetery and read the incriptions, until we noticed a large empty space marked by black lines. The tour guide explained that this is a mass grave for those who died in the Warsaw Ghetto. 70 000- 80 000 bodies are buried in that little space, without even a tomb marker. They are nameless, without monument or identity, unmourned with no kaddish or shivah. I was asked to recite the El Maleh Rachamim prayer and a surge of emotion came over me as I pleaded with HaShem to remember and have mercy on those poor souls who died.

Later on, we toured the ghetto, little of which is left. Only a few fragments of the walls survive. The ghetto best captures my feelings in Poland: constricted, restrained, trapped. I am not wanted here.

Walking into Umchlagplatz, the train depot from which 300 000 Jews were sent to Teblinka, I was in awe. It was the last stop for hundreds of thousands before the gas chambers, and I could walk out freely. I cried when the madrich said that we would not be going to our deaths but priviliedged to fulfill the dream of thousands: going to Eretz Yisrael.

It is astonishing to see Poles living in formerly Jewish areas. Next to the remaining ghetto wall are apartments and the Poles living there yelled at us for trespassing. At the heart of the ghetto, the Poles felt the need to erect a huge crucifix in honour of one of their saints, and a huge church sits on the main street. Not only were the Jewish bodies desecrated but the Jewish soul is spat upon. Cable cars with Kitkat advertisements run on the same haunted tracks as cattle cars used to. Have the Poles simply forgotten or chosen to forget? I think the little Jewish figurines holding money bags, sold at the hotel giftshop, answers my questions.

One final ceremony with all of the Canadian delegates was held at the Warsaw University. A righteous gentile who saved 25 Jews, and a few others were honoured. I am eternally grateful to their heroism. The Holocaust survivors also spoke. They are filled with such courage and inner strength. They suffered such horrors yet they have returned to the land of their torment to teach us. After that, 300 delegates sand Hebrew songs and danced, bringing Jewish music back to the city where it was extinguished 63 years ago.

May 7th
A short 3h drive from Warsaw is Treblinka- death, destruction, torture. There is nothing left of the camp as the Nazis tried to hide all evidence. It is surrounded by a lovely forest, growing from the ashes of murdered Jews which the Nazis used as fertilizer. At Treblinka, there is a stone monument representing the train tracks to oblivion. Stones stretch as far as the eye can see, representing communities that are no extinct. Over 17 000 communities were wiped out at Treblinka. Where the gas chambers used to stand, there is a large monument with engraving of chocking Jews in their last moments.

Treblinka means death. It is but a short distance from the trains to the gas chambers. Arrivals were greeted by an orchestra and were given postcard to send to their loved ones. Deceived, they were sent to the gas chambers.

We sang Ani Maamin like so many did in their last moments. We then proceeded to walk out alive from that factory of death.


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Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that the locals shouted at your group. How sad.

Rita Loca said...

I am with pinky!
BTW, I am so enjoying this series and appreciate that you are sharing this with us all.

Keli Ata said...

Bar: I am so sorry that this happened to you on your trip. But from it what a terrible and real sense of what Jews at the time experienced and more.

You relieved a little of what they experienced. Never let that leave you!

Anonymous said...

you jews deserve all. you liars prophet killers and you guys cause all the havoc in the world

Chet said...


It is not all Jews who deserve it but the Zionists who deserve it. They have done a great job taking up what Hitler started only by doing it to the Palestinians and others who land they want to steal.

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