Reflections from Abby Whayne, Hannah Guttman and Austin Rudd…
Something life changing happened today. Thousands of Jews from all around the world came together, in one place. The place where MILLIONS of Jews died. Normally, Auschwitz is full of sadness and gloominess but today it was full of life and high spirits. It almost sounds weird that the place that destroyed millions of people and families was full of joy; pure joy. And yes, tears were shed but most were happy tears. The tears that something so horrible and so wrong can bring together thousands that share the same feelings and emotions. Being with the other Jews from around the world almost makes me feel whole again. We have the privilege to enter AND exit the horrendous camp that our ancestors were not able to. We walked today for our ancestors. In their honor and memory.
After a long day of visiting the Kraków Ghetto and the Plaszow Labor Camp our feet and backs were aching. We were tired, hungry, and sad. When I was marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau I thought to myself, “there is no way I can do this. I am too tired, I want to sleep. My back kills from holding my backpack and my feet from standing and walking all day.” Then I realized there is no way I or anyone else marching can complain. The pain we felt is incomparable to the pain felt by the ones who suffered in the camps. We have to push; we are strong, just like our ancestors.
My spirits lifted as we got in place for the March. On the way to Auschwitz it started to rain. It was cold and gloomy out, just as it was yesterday when we visited Auschwitz. As the Cincinnati delegation entered the camp and stood waiting and talking the sun peeked out. All of the layers we once had on were shed. Everyone started laughing and meeting other delegations. Seeing everyone happy in a sad and depressing place is weird. I used to think that no one should ever laugh or smile in a place so disgusting and horrid as this place, but today was different. Jews, LIVING Jews were there. Jews that live great lives and Jews that are so different yet so similar. Trading with the other delegations was such an astounding feeling, one that barely anyone can experience. Jews that are all proud of where they come from all hug and love together. This experience is one I’ll never forget. I never want to forget this. Everything seen today is stuck in my head. Nothing will leave. I have always known evil is real but all these experiences have made us witnesses. Our greatest responsibility is to remember. The things we see can’t be forgotten. Going from 700 marchers at the very first March of the Living to over 8,000 this year is incredible. So many proud Jews that live in no regret and no fear of where they come from is so real and powerful. We have strength that we gained from our ancestors that we are proud of and will love and cherish forever. – Abby Whayne, Lakota East HS
Today was THE MARCH. Thousands of Jews wearing the same blue MOTL windbreaker, all in the same place. Marching for and celebrating those who couldn’t. This was the most amazing experience of my life. Amazing isn’t appropriate for what this experience actually is. I truly believe that I will never do something or be a part of something so special, so powerful, meaningful, and important as participating in the March. This was so significant for me, and I’m sure for thousands of others, because about 77 years ago, the Nazis truly believed and obsessively hoped that we wouldn’t be here. BUT WE ARE and we’re not going anywhere. Today we celebrated the 6 million whose lives were stolen in the Holocaust.
I have never felt more proud to be Jewish than today. To be surrounded in a flood of Jews for as far as the eye could see (literally) was such a comforting and empowering feeling. It reminds me even more that Judaism will live on forever, and the memory of the fallen will never be forgotten. We listened to many speakers, but the one who stood out the most for me and brought me to uncontrollable tears was a survivor named Edward Mosberg. He was wearing his black and white stripe uniform and cap that was given to him when he was in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. I’ve had the privilege of hearing many holocaust survivors speak, but he is the only one who said he cannot forgive. He saw his entire family murdered and turned into ash. When he spoke, the podium was shaking and had to be held down by his escort. His granddaughter had to hold onto him because the passion in his voice caused him to lose his breath and balance. His speech really made me sit up straight and realize how recent the Holocaust was and at that moment I promised myself that I refuse to let anything like this happen again. Whether it’s ignorance at school or a protest against Jews on a college campus, I will not be a bystander nor will I let anyone be a victim. I will never forget so that a Holocaust never happens again. #NeverForget #NeverAgain -Hannah Guttman, Cincinnati Country Day HS
Hello everyone. Today we started the day with a short amount of time in the Kraków ghetto. Followed by about an hour in a concentration camp called Plaszow. We learned that Plaszow was different from other camps, in that there was only Jews in the camp as opposed to other camps that had polish people and people of other ethnicities. After we left Plaszow we drove to Auschwitz. Once we arrived we walked into the camp. Immediately, I noticed a difference from yesterday. Yesterday, when we walked through the camp we all had a huge range of emotions, ranging from straight faced and trying to keep it together to extremely sad and in tears. But today I walked into the camp and at least five minutes had passed and I turned to Danny Niedermann and said “I just realized, we’re in Birkenau!” I FORGOT THAT I WAS IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP!!!!! I know that that sounds terrible but I have never see so many Jews being Jewish in the same place at the same time. The entire time that we were marching I’ve never felt more Jewish in my entire life. When I started this trip I started it with complete strangers but by the end of the third day I already knew that I would end this trip with a new family that I will always be able to count on. -Austin Rudd, Little Miami HS
During our journey, we’re sharing a few highlight photos per day in our daily blog, yet to see ALL of our photos (many per day, including more detail of this preserved camp), go to our shared album here. https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0SJqstnBJ10BQS