Day 2 - Lehava - Chloe Lyons
Our first full day in Poland begun at 5:30am. We ate breakfast at our hotel in Warsaw, prayed and then set off on the busses for a full day. It was about a two hour drive to Łódź - our first destination. We drove past the streets of Warsaw, which were incredibly eerie. No one was about as it was early in the morning, and of course freezing cold. Most of the buildings were run down and seemed to be old-fashioned. After about an hours drive, we arrived at Łódź. We learned that Łódź had the second biggest Jewish community in Poland pre-WWII. Our first destination was the Reicher Synagogue, a beautiful and interesting synagogue that was built before World War II. Our 2 guides, Yonatan and Tzachi spoke to us about the heritage of this shul, being that it was built by a wealthy Jewish family as a private place of prayer and the way that it was protected from the Nazis. We went inside and sang songs and danced as a group after hearing from a few speakers.
We then made our way to the Łódź Cemetery. Upon arriving we immediately noticed the vastness of the cemetery - it was massive. This cemetery highlighted the life pre the war, and the devastating loss of a vibrant community as a result of the Holocaust. We walked through, observing all the different areas. We saw the gigantic monument at Poznanski’s grave (highlighting his wealth) and we then made our way to the mass grave sites of those who perished in the Łódź ghetto. Most of these people weren’t treated with dignity and didn’t get a tombstone, however, the IDF has a project in which they research who are buried where and there are now placards that honour those people and act as a tombstone. The next area that we saw was quite unbelievable. We saw five large pits that had been dug by the Nazis, but thank G-d, never filled. Finally, we saw the Beit Tahara, the room that bodies are prepared for burial in.
Our busses backed out of the cemetery and we drove for a few minutes until we got to a large monument that said “לא תרצח - thou shalt not kill.” This monument stood next to a train station that led to concentration/death/labour camps. Our tour guide, Yonatan, said that although there was construction around this monument, and he didn’t necessarily have to take us there, he said he couldn’t not show us it - as it holds such a strong message and backstory.
We then drove to Chelmno. A very significant place; Chelmno was an extermination camp. We learned the fate of those who were brought there - which was that they were driven around in 3 Renault cars which guided lethal carbon-monoxide into their trunks. We arrived at the fields where the victims were ‘buried’. We found that there was absolutely nothing there other than a monument. We were shocked to find out that the Nazi’s tried everything to hide their actions, although they weren’t quite successful. We couldn’t believe that the fields were covered by tiny particles of human bone... We were extremely cynical at first, but gradually we all understood that it was true as we stared at the small white stone-like objects in our hands. We then did something incredibly moving. We had a burial for the pieces of human bone that we collected and said Kaddish for them. We then headed for the busses and before we left, davened Mincha.
Day 2 in Poland was long, but incredibly meaningful and interesting. We finished the day with a dinner just with our side, and then got to bed (we were all exhausted). The day gave us a glimpse of what is to come in Poland...