Central Europe Discovery #1: An Emotional Day at Auschwitz and Birkenau

After a long and emotional day visiting both Auschwitz and Birkenau, the teens were given time to reflect on their personal experiences. They were given an option of writing a journal entry and one teen offered to share his story. Below is Eli Rosen’s thoughts on visiting the camps:

I’m in Auschwitz. Birkenau itself is actually quite scenic. It’s easy to see how so many people were tricked by the Nazis into believing that the people in the camp were living normal lives. I’ve been thinking about perspective a lot during the time we walked through Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau). I have always had trouble fully comprehending how 12 million people (6 million Jews) could be so easily killed off.

Today was different however. As we walked into Auschwitz I, I could feel goosebumps all around my body. Walking into the camp as visitors was so frightening, I can’t even imagine what it felt like as a Jew being shoved and pushed out of a cattle car into the camp. For the first time, it all felt so real.

Everything seemed to come to life in Poland. Reading and learning about the camps in books and from teachers is so vastly different than the feeling that overcomes you when you take that first step into the camps and see the train tracks, the crematoriums, the gas chambers, and barracks, all of the horrifying methods the Nazi party used to take away 12 million lives.

Seeing all off this, I am overcome with sadness, anger, fear. It’s a hard feeling to explain. Nevertheless, being here and being able to say that I came into the camp a Jew, and came out of the camp a Jew, gives me a sense of pride. A pride in which my fellow 27 friends feel as well. A pride in being a Jew.

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