Bringing Jewish life back to Osweicem

Hello Everyone!

On Wednesday, we toured the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, located in the town area of Osweicem, 37 miles west of Krakow. We visited the only original synagogue left in the town and learned that it was 80% Jewish before the Holocaust. We had a special ceremony in the synagogue courtyard with Zeke Bronfman (New York) sharing a passage from Elie Wiesel’s book, “Night”, followed by the group singing a Jewish song, led by songleader, Eric Hunker. It was really special to bring Jewish life back to a place that was predominantly Jewish before the Holocaust and knowing that that are no Jews living in this town any longer.

We then toured Auschwitz a short distance away, followed by Birkenau (2 miles away).

BACKGROUND: The Auschwitz concentration camp complex was the largest of its kind established by the Nazi regime. It included three main camps and 44 sub camps, all of which incarcerated prisoners for forced labor, but Birkenau (Auschwitz II) was the killing center. Auschwitz is the only camp that administered tattoos to its inmates and the famous Dr. Mengele selected and performed medical experiments on the people here. Of the people brought to Auschwitz, only 10% of each transport was not killed immediately. In total, at least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz of whom approximately 1.1 million died there. Today, the main camp of Auschwitz is a museum with artifacts in each of the barracks. The massive area of Birkenau is a grim reminder, with burnt remains of the crematoriums and barracks in full view.

“The experience feels too surreal to feel like I am really here.”
– Noah Nadelbach (Voorhee, New Jersey)

“It blows your mind away. You see the pictures, but, once you are there, you are struck with the sheer mass and horror of this event. It breaks your heart, knowing that it could have been prevented and so many people could have done more.” – Rosa Benson (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)

“The environment in Auschwitz left me and still leaves me speechless. How a place can look so normal yet feels so horrid leaves me astounded. It’s inspiring to me to see how far we’ve come.” – Max Alter (Cleveland)

“I appreciated having a guide in Auschwitz as it provided context I couldn’t have gotten otherwise. On the flip side, it was a lot of info to take in while trying to understand everything I was feeling.” – Anna Sheinberg (Austin, Texas)

“Auschwitz is just as much or more for people who don’t know about the Holocaust. It’s important to teach those who don’t understand it so it doesn’t happen again.” – Jacob Levy (Arlington, VA)

“Every number has a story.” –  Aaron Hakimi (Long Island, NY)

“They tried to bury us, but, they didn’t realize we were seeds.” – Eden Hakim (Long Island, NY)

“Forgetting the dead would be like killing them a second time.” – Roger Hyman (Long Island, NY)

“It was amazing to put places with stories I’ve heard. Today really showed me it is our duty to spread the truth about the Holocaust and really make sure we learn from it.” – Ben Dross (Potomac, MD)

“I can’t comprehend what I saw today. It’s messed up that people did this to people. It truly did happen; I saw with my eyes, and I solemnly swear that I will never let it happen again.” – Nikki Goldstone (Baltimore, MD)

“As I walked past the glass case of children’s clothes, I couldn’t help but notice that they were beautiful. Hard working people built a life for themselves and their children. Walking through Auschwitz and seeing personal belongings that belonged to average people whose lives were stolen from them was the best and worst experience of my life.” – Hannah Indyke (Livingston, NJ)

At the conclusion of our tour in Birkenau, the green bus led everyone in a special closing ceremony, led by Isaac Kesner (Albuquerque, NM), Ori Tsameret (Portland, OR), Eve Goldstein (Livingston, NJ) and Arielle Greenberg (Northbrook, IL). It was very meaningful for all of us, and one of our guides (Chaim Newman) led us in the Eli Rachamin prayer and the Mourner’s Kaddish.

That evening, local Jewish teens living in Krakow joined us, and they shared their stories about growing up Jewish in Poland. A Q&A was led by BBG International N’siah, Rebbecca Sereboff (Reisertown, MD). Everyone joined in singing Hinei Ma-tov, led by one of our teens on the guitar, Aydin Mayers (Pleasantville, NY).

On Thursday, we return to Auschwitz for the March of the Living procession and ceremony. I will be in touch to share all the details.

Take care,
Sherrie

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