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Birkenau, Auschwitz, Kabalat Shabbat (Day 6)

The front of Auschwitz
Today I walked out of Auschwitz-Birkenau alive. It was one of the most impactful experiences of my life. Unlike at the march, Auschwitz presented itself as a dark and haunting killing machine. It was no longer a place overflowing with ruach (spirit) and immense joy. While there was certainly a drastic change in the vibe at the camp, the sense of triumph I felt during the march was still as strong as ever. As odd as it may sound, it was incredibly inspiring to walk around Auschwitz as a free person. It’s almost a form of revenge.
As a student studying the Holocaust, I felt helpless. It seemed as though I was unable to fight against the Nazi Regime or protect the Jewish people from facing such atrocities. However, today I realized that this wasn’t even remotely true; though the Holocaust itself is in the past, it is our responsibility to carry on its stories. By bearing witness to these horrific sites we are preventing the Nazis from having a lasting inhibitory impact on the Jews. Sharing stories from death camps prolongs the narrative that the Jewish people are indescribably strong.
As cliche as it sounds, Auschwitz changed the way I view the Holocaust. In the end the Jews won, and Hitler was unable to carry out his “mission”. My ancestors belong to a special faction of heroic people. Most importantly, each day hundreds of Jews walk out of Auschwitz alive.
–Nina Dizenhuz

After marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau, we got to tour the camps as a delegation. I immediately got an eerie feeling once I entered the gates of Birkenau. Hearing about the conditions and treatment of the people who suffered in the Holocaust made me feel sick. I feel an immense amount of pride and joy for being Jewish and I will never forget this experience. I am so grateful for the Mayerson JCC of Cincinnati and for the opportunity to go on this trip of a lifetime that will stay with me forever.

–Jenna Caller

Today we visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. This experience was among the most harrowing and monumental moments of my life. The perspective I️ gained today on the camp grounds was a complete contrast to that of the one I️ saw through yesterday during the march to celebrate Jewish life. There were dozens of different exhibits. We saw almost everything that the Shoah victims and survivors brought with them to the camp, everything from piles of old shoes to suitcases and locks of hair. But the thing that they left behind that resonated with me the most were their names. Once all of the inmates arrived at the camps, they were dehumanized in every facet, most importantly, by having their names replaced with numbers such as 11356 or 22784. The last exhibit we saw was a list of 4 million names of Jewish Holocaust victims. Among those names was the name of my grandfather and the names of his immediate family. I️ shared the picture of the list with my mother this evening and it was a very emotional experience. We talked about my grandfather. His life, his legacy, his children. If he were alive today, he would be happy to know that I️ was going on this journey to honor him and most importantly to celebrate life and my Jewish heritage.

–Ori Graf

Cross training. Young woman exercising with dumbbells.

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