Auschwitz. Such a terrifying and mind numbing word. It’s understood across the countries and throughout the world. Everyone knows what it is, and the atrocities and hardships that were faced there.
We pulled up outside the main entrance. The large looming gates staring down at us. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Nowhere to escape the vast emptiness. Nowhere to pretend the horror didn’t happen. All the evidence, right in front of us. The picture books come to life before our eyes, so different to how we imagined. We stood parallel to the same tracks that so many of our ancestors arrived on. Stood where so many families were torn apart. Stood where so many of our ancestors were enslaved and executed. We followed the tracks through the infamous main entrance that so many of our relatives passed through. Passing the cattle car that was donated by the Lowy family, reminding us of the privilege we have of being able to stand on our own to feet and our freedom to move. We made our way to the remnants of the crematorium, the eyesore that was used to kill so many people. Too many people. Too many innocent lives, taken away from families and communities.
Following their journey, we walked to two ponds. Ponds which contained ashes. These ponds would freeze over winter, with the ashes still inside. As we all separated, to have a minute to ourselves and absorb our surroundings, I found myself questioning the unjustified rays of sunshine that shone through the clouds. How could light shine on this desecrated land? How could such a necessity for humans, still be provided here? Once we gathered together, we made our way to the shower rooms, where people were forced to undress and leave their belongings. Some were given tattoos and some were sent to the gas chambers. Here, many photos and other memorabilia was found. The images of so many nameless faces will forever be in my mind. We made our way to the mass graves, where countless people were murdered. I read out names of families members of mine who perished here as well. We then sang hamalach hagoel oti, symbolising the unity of the Jewish people even during all these atrocities. As we began to make our way out of the camp, passing bunkers where so many people endured the worst conditions, I was proud to be able to leave those gates. To walk out a strong Jewish woman. To have the freedom to be able to leave. To have a homeland to be able to travel to. To be safe. I was able to leave.
We got back on the bus and made out way to Auschwitz. After some lunch, we grabbed our audio guide and toured with one of 200 trained educators. We walked past the horrible conditions many people were faced with. We saw many items of clothing, crockery and other objects. Too many to even describe. The numerous rows and stacks of shoes, too many to even imagine belonging to people. After a tiring day, we left the museum and approached our final destination of Poland. We davened a beautiful service at the shule in *Auschwitzem* where our intelligent and educated guide Tsachi, provided us with a final, beautiful and moving speech. With that, we hoped on the bus for Warsaw. A 4.5 hour drive away. On this journey, Benji informed us of the situation in Poland and that we would not be traveling there, rather postponing our stay in Poland for two more days. With this piece of news, we arrived at the Novotel in Warsaw, feeling a slight mixture of anxiety, confusion, and excitement.