Today, in a nutshell, was difficult. There were so many conflicting feelings running through my head as we entered Auschwitz 1 and 2 because one of the purposes of the March we did today was to celebrate the incredible amount of Jewish life and culture that has endured. However, it was nearly impossible to not also think about the incredible amount of death that took place. The March itself for me was a time of solitude as I tried to imagine myself walking to my death instead of to more life. But it was hard to focus only on that path when thousands of other students were joyously talking and singing around me.
I’ll try to not be overly analytical, but I couldn’t help but notice the weather today. All week it’s been saying that it was supposed to rain throughout the whole time we were walking. As a wonderful surprise, the sun was out while we were trading items and preparing for our walk, and even while we walked it was a comfortable temperature. But right as we got to Auschwitz-Birkenau, it started raining. Lightly at first, then harder. I thought it was a beautiful moment that perfectly captured the intensity we were supposed to be feeling.
Recently I’ve read about being “mindful” of my surroundings – taking in sounds, feelings, smells, etc., and usually it relaxes me. But today it was overwhelming, and I didn’t know how to react to it. I’m sure I was not alone with these feelings of being lost, but in those moments there were so many thoughts pouring through my head that I didn’t know how to sort them.
It felt in vain that we were complaining about our hunger and how cold we were while it was raining and how badly our feet hurt, because we were able to go back on the bus and eat in warmth while sitting. It just didn’t seem fair. Why do we have these seemingly-simple entitlements when literally millions of people were deprived of these basic parts of our lives. It just really puts into perspective how we all have our own struggles and they really can’t be compared, but sometimes we need to step back and realize how much we truly have to be thankful for. I hope we can all take what we’ve seen and continue to apply it to our everyday lives.
-Nora Dukart, Sycamore High School