Day 3 - Netzach - Jonah Forman
Stepping off the bus in Majdanek, you immediately see the ‘shadow of death’ that we hear about. You are encumbered by a soulless landscape, topped with an empty grey sky, filled with bleak, white snow and dotted with black wooden walls that have seen the incomprehensible. The only form of life are the few crows. As we made our way to the prisoner's barracks, our tour guide, Jonty Blackman, read a poem which referenced the very gravel road we were about to traverse; for me, this was the first of many emotional moments. Further down the road, we approached a building labelled "Bath and Disinfection". As we got closer and closer to the building, a genuinely toxic smell grew stronger and stronger.
We entered an ice cold, concrete chamber inside. Its walls were covered with the blue stains of Zyklon B, and the doors scarred with the gashes of desperation. It’s within this chamber that we sang the song ‘Ani Ma’amin’; I believe. There was a moment where it seemed that unanimousluly we had all sang louder and with so much passion. I'm sure I am not alone when I say that this moment genuinely made me tremble and shake. It was a moment in which I felt truly unified with my cohort and part of something immensely greater - something beautiful that I will never forget.
Behind the gas chamber was what was left of an electric fence. As I ran my bear fingers along its rusted, barbed wire I couldn't help but cry at the thought of what went on by the fence. This was perhaps the most prevalent moment for me during my experience at Majdanek.
Further down the aforementioned road, we stopped at a barrack filled to the brim with the confiscated shoes of Majdanek's victims; two of which stood out to me and were instilled in my memory. The first was a child's shoe. The small decaying fabric and sole shook and scared me. A child's life obliterated. A story burnt and tarnished before it was written. The second shoe that stood out to me was the only coloured one. It served to remind me of all of the stories that were lost to history and will never be heard. It was a harsh reminder that the 78, 000 people that were horrifically murdered in Majdanek are not just numbers, but rather a list of individual personalities, individual stories and individual perspectives.
There is something powerful about walking through what was once hell on earth with the flag of our nation - Israel - on our backs. Majdanek was a truly horrifying, harrowing, intense and eye-opening experience and one I will never forget.
Later that day we went to a Shule built in the 17th century. It was constructed underground because Jews weren't permitted to live in the city of Lublin at this time. We were privileged to be some of the few people to have sung, danced and prayed in the old synagogue since it was shot at and ruined by the Nazis. It made me feel connected to the people that used to pray there and a proud member of the Jewish people.