Study Mission Has Powerful Impact

By Rachel Martin
Haldane High School, New York

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"He Who Does Not Remember History Is Doomed To Repeat It."

George Santayana

[ ARBEIT MACHT FREI: Work Makes You Free ]

[ Gate at Auschwitz I ]

Entrance to Auschwitz I

Auschwitz I
March 22, 1994

We see the hair taken from women. A whole room worth of it. It is bundled in braids and tails. The Germans made the hair into cloth for German suits. The hair looks like corpses all piled haphazardly on top of each other. This has been the worst yet.

The plates. Bowls. The dishes were piled in a room, deep and wide, enough to feed a whole school.

Suitcases piled to the ceiling. They held the owner's whole life, a life which most would never see again. As my friend Nir said, "It's terrible."

White, Black, Red, Brown. Shoes stacked to the top as though waiting for people to step into them one more time.

A family gallery of pictures. Not one smile and all the same clothes -- the family of the dead -- put up by the living.

The sights are indescribable. I cannot put words to my emotions, but I try. The pain experienced by these people, my people, is horrendous. The sight of forty teenagers crying for their history is overwhelming. But, seeing forty teenagers crying in order to help themselves preserve the history of their people, and to insure that they will not allow it to occur again, is also overwhelming in the most positive way.

The death wall, a place where people to be executed were brought, marched naked to, and then shot through the back of the head. An ignoble way to die.

* * *

Auschwitz II/Birkenau
March 22, 1994

How much bluer can the sky get? Today the sky seems out of place. The grass is a cheerful green with which my brain will not associate. I want the grey sky and the snow covering the dry brown grass. I feel as though the world is mocking my pain. I need nature to cooperate.

* * *

March 23, 1994

Maybe if they left something. Maybe my pain would be more complete. Maybe I would have less questions, maybe not. Maybe it is better this way. To see more barracks, more gas chambers might have been too hard. But maybe it would have been easier. I would not have had to see all the stones.

* * *

Yad Vashem: Children's Memorial
March 31, 1994

As we walked through the memorial, we first saw faces. Faces of children killed. As we continued down the path, we heard the names being read off. The tone was so cold, so monotone. Then we turned and walked into a room filled with sparkling lights. The first image that crossed my mind was that of a skyline as in a postcard from New York. It scared me so much, that the one and a half million pierces from mirror images of Yahrzeit candles could look like a city. Those one and a half million children were that city. Their adult lives would have created the skyline I saw.

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