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Monday, April 7, 2014

Heritage Trip to Poland 2014/5774: Day 4

On Friday, we ventured into the final resting place of 1.1 million people, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death camp. Our guide, Tzvi Shiloni, led the group on a silent march on the exact path that the Jews had to walk on. We started off on the train tracks and kept walking until we stumbled upon an actual cattle car. Next, we walked to an area that contained ruins of huge undressing chambers, gas chambers, and crematoriums. Unlike the Majdanek Concentration camp, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was massive and each room could contain 1500+ people. In Majdanek, 600,000 prisoners were brutally murdered, while the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was the final resting place for twice the amount of people. Next, the group surrounded a small, special pond. In the summer, the water level in the pond still remains constant and the water will never evaporate. This is due to the ashes of hundreds of thousands of prisoners that is still present at the bottom of the pond. We sang a couple of pizmonim and recited Kaddish for the fallen. We then walked over to see the "Canada I" which was a chamber where prisoners would leave all of their possessions. The Nazis would then sift through their possessions and ship all of the expensive items that were found to Germany. What was left until today were inexpensive items such as spoons and forks.
It was so horrifying to imagine an enormous amount of people suffering in each of these chambers. We can only imagine how the prisoners must've died in screams, attempting to hold on to dear life. In reality, Thank G-d, we can't  relate to those that fell during the Holocaust, we can only try to imagine what the final moments of their lives were like.

Being able to view the atrocities that the Nazis brought upon the Jews firsthand, it helps us appreciate the small things that we take for granted on a day to day basis. After experiencing the camps, we are able to appreciate our family, being able to go to the bathroom privately, showering, having hair, having possessions, having 3 meals a day, and having freedom so much more.
Next we went to Auschwitz I, which was turned into a museum. We went on a tour and were shown many artifacts from the Holocaust. We saw old shoes, luggage, and hair that was confiscated by the Nazis when the prisoners arrived at the death camps.

It's ironic how the pristine, grassy fields and tall green trees give the death camps such beautiful appearances, however, the beauty of these places mask the monstrosities that the Nazis brought upon the Jewish people. No matter how many people try to put down the holocaust, it's our duty as Jews to never forget that it happened.
When we visit such upsetting and depressing sites, we subconsciously believe that we should only feel remorseful and maybe even shed a tear. However, in my opinion that isn't the purpose of the trip. Instead of being upset, we should actually rejoice at the fact that we are still here and that the Nazis failed to eradicate us all. We should rejoice that we have large families, rejoice that we live in a country where we aren't persecuted, and rejoice that Hashem puts down all of our enemies. Walking through the concentration camps, we can truly visualize how true the sentence ״והיא שעמדה לאבותינו ולנו שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלותינו והקדוש ברוך הוא מצילינו מידם״ is. ~Jeffrey Nussbaum, SGO Vice President