Thursday, November 16, 2006

Poland #3 - Oct 25, 2006 - Majdanek

Like the women and children who arrived here 65 years ago, our group arrived and went straight to the bath and delousing room. In the first room, the womens hair was removed. They removed their clothes in the next room and then entered the showers, with hot water or cold depending on the whims of the guard on duty. Like these women we walked from the showers into the next room. Unlike them, we didn't die from the poison gas. We sat, we talked, we sung songs of strength and belief in God.

This was my first time in a gas chamber and I have no need to do it again. You can see the remains of the Zyklon B gas. Its a blue-green splotch across most of the ceiling. Most of the Jews who arrived here die in this room or its twin next door in the mens delousing building.

On the far side of the camp which by the way is surrounded by the buildings of Lublin, we saw the crematorium. I shuddered to see the furnaces and the racks which were used to load the bodies. The Germans were good at removing any uncomfortable sights. A dead Jewish body looks no different from a dead Nazi. after cremation, only ashed and a few bones are left. With a little crushing, even that is just dust.

I thought that the tour was over. Wrong again. On Nov 3, 1943, Himmler decided that he was tired of the Jews rebellions in Treblibka, Sobibor and Warsaw. On the day, all of the Jews who worked in and around Majdanek were taken to the far side of the camp near the crematorium and shot. 18300 people died in the camp that day. Their remains were buried and then burned.

When the Russians captured the camp in the summer of 1944, all that was left of the jews was a pile of ashes. The Russians built a monument: a huge dome covering an open mound of 7 tons of ash and bones.

Our group walked through the camp as free men. We proudly wore our sweatshirts with the star of David. Many of us wore Israeli flags. I had the privilege of carrying one of the flags on a pole. It was cold and windy, but the flag stood straight and proud. The Nazis are gone. Only we remain.

I had the honor of reciting the El Male Rachamim over their graves. The boys read a selection of texts from the holocaust. As is becoming our standard, we sung Hatikva and Adon Olam.

The questions remain, but the imagery is too overwhelming.


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