Today we went to Auschwitz and Birkenau, the largest concentration/death camps. They are symbols of the horrors humanity is capable of perpetrating. There is nothing I can say that can capture the reality of the Shoah (Holocaust). Words are simply inadequate. However there were two things that struck a powerful chord in me.
First, while we were walking through Auschwitz there was a tangible sounds of a baby crying. On the one hand it echoed the cries of children being ripped away from their parents' arms 70 years ago. On the other, when I finally saw the child it was bundled up in warm clothing being held by its father who would take it from the camp at the end of the day. The child became for me an important symbol of life, love, hope and humanity in the midst of this place of horror, death and inhumanity.
Second was the remnant of a gas chamber/crematorium. Sitting there as an abandoned pile of rubble I felt this symbol of death and horror had become a tribute to the victory of life. Its fallen bricks a tribute to the strength of the Jewish imperative to choose life. It lies in ruins and we continue on living.
One last thought about our time in Poland. Here the specter of the Russian (I almost typed Soviet) takeover of Crimea and the massing of troops on the border of the Ukraine reminds everyone we spoke with of the Anschluss when Germany invaded the Sudentenland on the pretext of protecting Germans living in Czechoslovakia. The fear of some of the Poles we talked to brought home the reality of a world with the real potential to go to war.