Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Day in Auschwitz and Birkenau

After a two-hour drive from the hotel in Krakow, we arrived at Auschwitz. Although this is the fifth time that I have been to the Concentration camp, you can never get used to the experience. To think that you are touring a place of mass murder is just unthinkable. Today was particularly cold and it began to rain, which always makes the experience a lot more meaningful. You could hear everyone complained about the weather, but soon enough you realize that all you have to do is brave the elements for a few hours, while the people living in the camps had to endure it for a lot longer. Auschwitz is so big that every time I visit I end up seeing something new that I hadn’t seen in the past.

After Auschwitz we visited Birkenau or as it is also known - Auschwitz II. Birkinau is much larger and was the essential killing machine of the Nazi's. Approximately 8,000 Jews were sent to the gas chambers and then burned in the Crematoria every single day. We visited the bunkers where approximately 800 people spent their days, in the freezing cold of winter and the hot summers. The conditions were terrible and the fact that anyone survived is a miracle. For the first time, I visited the women's barracks, place that they literally left women to die, by not feeding them anything. Finally we ended our stay in Birkenau by visiting the children’s barracks. This was extremely hard to see, but at the same time it became the most moving experience so far. While we were waiting for the other bus group to join us we all sat on the floor and I told our group a story about Reb Lazer Silver and how he would attempt to rescue young children after the Holocaust. We then sang "Kol Ha'olam". When the other bus arrived Rabbi Meir Tennenbaum told the story of children who lived in the very barrack that we were in and spoke about the fact that on Rosh Hashana they went to ask their Rebbi if he could come and blow the Shofar for them, and when he agreed they asked if they could daven. At that moment we all got up to daven Mincha, probably the very first Mincha that had been said in those barracks since those children uttered the prayer.

After dinner we arrived at a hall to hear a number of survivors tell their true-life stories.

Tomorrow is the March of the Living 2011.

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