The Journey to Poland



By: OMER SHACHNAI  
Published: April 11th 2010
in News » World

Auschwitz
Pic: wikimedia commons

I must confess, when one seeks to write about the holocaust, it is hard to decide where to begin. You think and ponder, while struggling with the words. Every word that is about to be written down  is thoroughly checked, since there are no words to describe what the victims felt when death was a part of the daily routine, when death became the norm and life itself was considered as a miracle. 

 

Therefore, I will begin in a formal manner. As a human being, I had the opportunity to endure a rare, personal and profound experience when joining an educational delegation for Poland, a few years ago. When leaving Israel, I left a loving and supporting country,  a homeland and on the contrary, when arriving in Poland, which was once one of the biggest and most important Jewish centers in the world and is now almost empty of Jews, I realized that I have reached a foreign and alienated country, which did not want us 70 years ago, and doubtfully wants us now.

 

For seven emotionally-hard days, we were the representatives of our institute, our community, of Israel and of the entire Jewish people. We toured the death camps, the concentration camps as well as the ghettos. Gloomy, macabre places, who send shivers down your spine such as Chelmno, Treblinka, Maidanek and Auschwitz- Birkenau, in which terrible, monstrous and hard to bare and to perceive events occurred, took shape right in front of our eyes. We were now standing on a scorched land, filled with the ashes of the millions of our people which were barbarically exterminated, only because of their beliefs.

 

Questions like "If this is man?" of  Primo Levi, the holocaust survivor, or alternatively how did such chaotic and evil forces (the most violent and hateful forces ever seen) emerge from another human soul? We left unarenswered. We stood there and we didn't know how to explain, we simply did not know how to, we only thought on how on earth did people survive there in the ferocious cold, while being tormented, without any food, with shards of fabric serving as cloth, battered, bruised and disconnected from all their loved ones.

 

The strong friendship formed between the delegation's members, the life story of the holocaust survivor who accompanied us, the sites we saw and the ceremonies we held on Polish soil, the vast graveyard, showed us why we shouldn't take anything for granted, especially in these days, when threats to destroy us are once again becoming more and more common. We held the final ceremony in one of the prisoners' blocks inside Auschwitz- Birkenau. After completing the ceremony, we sang our national anthem, Hatikva and then went outside to the frost. The wind was carrying feather-like snowflakes, but in our hearts, we carried a proud saying- that we are free people, free to live in our country and elsewhere, free to choose in good, free to choose in life.

 

The journey to Poland was one of the most  important events for me as an Israeli, a Jew and as a man and I will forever keep it in my thoughts and in my heart.




Related articles: (Holocaust, Poland, survivor, death camp, concentration camp, Primo Levi)

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