This morning I awoke with an unfounded sense of optimism, and I realized that it originated from my peers’ own attitudes. We tried to carry this with us on our way to Majdanek and Zbylitowska Gora. However, as we came into Majdanek, the first thing we heard was the crying of other delegations who were touring the bath houses. Until then, it hadn’t hit me that I was standing in the exact place where my people did when they were needlessly persecuted. Almost immediately after this, we saw the shoes of the prisoners of the camp. There were over 8,000 pairs. The only thing I could do in this moment was to hold my sister and tell her I love her, and how grateful I am for her. This was reiterated when we went to the forest where nearly 1,000 Jewish children were murdered.
I realized what an amazing opportunity it is to do this with my twin, for it is so important to have someone close to share this experience with. It also made me realize that it is our responsibility to tell the stories of these people, no matter how tragic they are, for these stories are the ones that will prevent a repeat of the darkest time in Jewish history.
Today we visited the Majdanek concentration camp and the Zbylitowska Gora (forest). Each location was an emotional experience for all of us, as they evoked just how perilous the Holocaust was for everyone afflicted by the Nazis. From Majdanek’s shoe collection, bunk beds and carbon monoxide-ridden spaces, to the forest’s decorated pit, honoring the children murdered there and elsewhere, every place we visited was shrouded in somberness and horror. However, even in the midst of such sadness, we still managed to exude hope. Whether we were singing the Hatikvah hand-in-hand or hugging each other tightly as we shed tears, we did so while learning about our tragic history – not ignoring or denying its existence. We’re embracing our religion as one, in a time when religion is becoming less and less popular. We‘re indirectly emphasizing that there is hope for Judaism, as well as the stories of Holocaust survivors and non-survivors, to live on from generation to generation – and that is more powerful than any machine the Nazis could have ever created.
In honor of US National Siblings Day:
These past few days, I have walked with twenty-eight of my brothers and sisters through lands of unbelievable horrors. Tomorrow, we will walk with about 15,000 more siblings through one of the most infamous places on Earth (in my opinion), Auschwitz. Tomorrow there will be no hate. Tomorrow there will only be tears of happy gratefulness. We survived. We are still here. We will not, however, forget the monstrosities committed here.
Yesterday, we witnessed the mass graves in the forest of Tykocin and the most “efficient” nazi extermination camp, Treblinka. Today, Majdanek (another extermination camp) and Zbylitowska Gora (even more mass graves in a forest). We have listened to stories of babies being ripped from their mothers’ grasps, thrown into the air, and shot down like clay pigeons. Miraculous stories of survival and persistence and of brave, life-saving decisions. And when the words dig pits in our hearts and make thunderstorms in our eyes, the twenty-eight of us lean on one another. We hug tight, making the other know that they are not alone, nor ever will be.
Kehilla-community-is what makes me so proud to be a Jew. Our continual support is one of the greatest feelings I’ve had. Though it has only been a few months that I’ve know some of my peers, today they’ve all become my brothers and sisters.
I am so thankful for getting this experience, gaining a better understanding of what happened here, and getting to know these twenty-eight amazing people. I will be proud to march by their side tomorrow and to march with them and the eleven million victims of the Holocaust all in my heart until my last breath.