Touring Auschwitz Birkenau on March of the Living 2017

 

We are all doing well and this is a terrific group of teens. It was a crazy weather day –changing often- cold, rainy, snowy, icy and sunny throughout the day. Our day was full, touring the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, located in the town area of Osweicem, 37 miles west of Krakow. It was at times a tough reality, but, it was important to learn the history and hear the stories.

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 infamous 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.

Our time at Auschwitz concluded with a moving ceremony outside of the crematorium written and presented by Dan Zackin (Connecticut Valley Region), Mollie Fink and Jenna Attas (Harrisburg delegation) and Nicci Mowszowski,(Rocky Mountain Region).

SOME TEEN REFLECTIONS . . .

“As upsetting as it was today to walk through Auschwitz and Birkenau, I’m not upset that I went and experienced this day. I was finally able to picture my grandpa and his family in Poland before and during the war. As I saw tallit laying in an exhibit of things taken from the Jews, the hatred of the Nazis hit me in a way I hadn’t felt before. I think today was the first day that it became a real, almost tangible thing to me and not just a story I’ve been told all of my life.”- Lauren Levine (Nassau Suffolk Region)

“As I walked through Birkenau, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful flowers that surrounded an area with such a gruesome and cruel history. This was a reminder that life, and more importantly, we as Jews, can only continue to keep growing with an aim of creating a more beautiful world around us.” – Dani Chaum (Cotton States Region)

“I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to visit Auschwitz, and I am lucky enough to travel here with some of my best friends, and see first-hand the true horrors that Auschwitz brought unto Jewish people.” – Sydnie Meshulam (Gold Coast Region)

“I’ve always been shown pictures, heard the testimonies of survivors, and I’ve read the history books to try to understand what happened in the Holocaust. But nothing taught me more than my experience in walking through the gate and witnessing the greatest attempt to wipe away our people.” – Eitan Myron (Pacific Western Region)

“Right now, I’m sitting in Auschwitz Birkenau. Everything is gray here. It’s really hard to swallow the gravity of the situation as much as I try. My eyes feel like they deceive me as I become a witness. There were people here, my relatives, who were burned and killed for no reason other than a man had an opinion. That’s not fair. I wanna do something but the most I can do is what I did today which is remember, understand, and never forget. ” – Carly Heitner (Nassau Suffolk Region)

The bus groups are currently meeting to debrief the day and share their thoughts, an important part of the process of understanding the trip and the realization of what happened in this sad time in ourJewish history. We return to Auschwitz tomorrow for the actual “March of the Living” procession to Birkenau, alongside the ten thousand others expected to attend.

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