Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Auschwitz Birkenau

If you read my post on Madjanek, you'll remember that I was in a bit of shock as to how large this camp was.  Well, compared to Birkenau, Madjanek is tiny.

Birkenau encompasses an enormous area that is mostly surrounded by trees. Mostly flat, it stretches farther than the eye can see and I could not see its borders. It hit me at some point that there could have been whole families here that would never see one another despite being in the same camp.  

Everything in Birkenau was - and I quote Zvi Sperber - a machine of death. This is what this camp excelled in. And those unfortunate enough to be sent here didn't just suffer a physical agony but the agony of humiliation. Of acute degradation. Their sole purpose was to strip an entire nation of its dignity and self worth, of their religious pride and of their humanity.

I could get seriously morbid here and give you some of the gruesome details of what I saw, what I HEARD firsthand from a man who had been there but I won't because hearing it from me is not the right thing to do.  

Each and every Jew has a duty to their commitment as a Jew to see this for themselves.  And when you see this for yourself, you will understand the grave importance of what it is to have faith in a time of blinding darkness and you will learn to be thankful for the fact that we as Jews have never before lived in an era where we can live freely as Jews, out in the open without fear of being sent to our deaths for our beliefs as we do today. And you will come to be everlasting grateful for our modern-day miracle of the land of Israel, for a homeland which will embrace us, fight for us, protect us and will prevent a holocaust from ever happening again.

I cannot impress upon you how important this is, and after this trip I've come to believe that this is not just a duty but a mitzvah.  

On Pesach we are commanded to remember our time in Egypt and teach our children about both our suffering and our redemption.  
....והגדת לבנך

My brother, Zvi, wearing the Israeli flag I brought with from home standing on the train tracks at the gates of Birkenau...

"Cattle car"....

The women's barracks. There were three levels and ten women per level...

Davening mincha outside one of the barracks. The buggy was used to collect the dead bodies of prisoners who had died in the middle of the night...

At the far end of the camp in front of where once stood the furnaces and the crematoriums.  The Nazis tried to bomb the furnaces when the allies came in and you can see the half bombed rubble still standing.

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