On a grave
One can almost
There’s no way that one can put into words today’s experience. We’ve gone from a shtettle of 1400 prospering Jews to the place where their bodies lie on top of each other in a mass grave.
The great synagogue of Tikochin was absolutely magnificent. It is now a museum, with a Chanukia and Kippot lying in glass cases across one wall. We sat on the benches of the shule where 1400 Jews once congregated and brought song back into the eerie silence.
In the summer of 1941, these Jews were rounded up in the town center and told nothing. The children and women were sent in trucks and the men marched to a nearby town where they were settled in a school gym. Every half hour a truck would come and collect 40 passengers and take them to Lupochova, a beautiful forest where the children used to play, and shot into huge pits. Memorials now stand where these pits were, outlined with gates. Candles, flowers and children’s toys lined the fence and were piled on the inside of the gate. When we visited, the silence was thick. None of us could speak because none of us had the words. To describe the feeling of loss and sadness would need a whole new alphabet, a whole new vocabulary. We never knew any of these people, though we could feel their lives resonating through the forest and we missed them.
We all said Kaddish and sung Acheinu.
Treblinka wasn’t what I expected at all – it was disconcertingly beautiful, in fact. Though that might just be because nothing of the extermination camp is left standing – instead memorials sit in its place. The stories were haunting, with Lainie, Ilan, Rabbi Jonny and Rabbi Benji talking from their hearts about personal stories. Something that Rabbi Benji said at the end stuck with me. As we were leaving he said “We are walking out alive, something which many Jews didn’t get to do.” I think this one phrase will stay with me through my time in Poland.
It’s incredible to be here and be able to feel and see such sadness yet still be able to sing and laugh with each other. This isn’t just a group of kids anymore, it’s a connected group of friends.