MOTL #2:

n 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 at the synagogue. 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.

Please see some quotes below from some of the teens on our trip. 
“March of the Living is a one of a kind experience that I am truly grateful to be a part of with my closest friends from around the world. Being able to share this journey through the concentration camps in Poland is a lif- changing experience and puts life into perspective about how our people were treated and murdered during the Shoah.” ~Owen Soler, Vorhees, NJ

“Going to Auschwitz and Birkenau today was a surreal experience. You hear about the camps in school and movies, but actually being in the presence of them really makes you grasp the extent of all the awful crimes committed against the Jewish people. Nechemiah Kohl As I walked through Auschwitz/ Birkenau today, I felt an overwhelming sense of liberation. It was unbelievable to see the tragedies that unfolded in all these evil places, yet, in all these places all I could see was light. All I could see were people, free people, and to me that overtook the darkness.” ~Elior Cohen, Dallas, TX

“As I stand as a free due in a place that was meant to kill everyone like me the words of Werner Reich are ringing in my head, “And the good people did nothing.” Now more than ever we cannot be the next generation of good people who do nothing. We cannot sit idly by as Jews are gunned down in Pittsburgh and San Diego. As Muslims and Christians around the world are persecuted simply for being themselves. We must be the generation to act. We must stand by the pledge of never again. We must be the good people that do something.”~ Josh Fisher  

At the conclusion of our tour in Auschwitz/Birkenau we gathered together in the children’s barrack for a moving story and song session. Our session culminated with a Mincha service right outside the barrack. Before we departed Birkenau we spent some time singing and reflecting in the children’s barrack. We closed the day with a Yom HaShoah ceremony in our hotel where we heard some inspiring words from our survivors. On Thursday, we return to Auschwitz for the March of the Living procession and ceremony.

Take care,
Meir
May 1, 2019
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