We arrived in Warsaw this evening and I'm writing to you from the lobby of the Novotel. After a week traversing Shtetl Country, we are suddenly thrust into the 21st century, into a huge city totally rebuilt since the war. The kids were thrilled to be here, and in great spirits as we will fly to Israel tomorrow. French and Canadian MOTL groups are sharing this hotel with us, giving the place a real international flavor. This is the first time I've actually seen a newspaper that I understand. But we've pretty much been living the news this week.
Poland is bereft. We arrived at the Lublin yeshiva when a memorial service was going on inside with Poland's chief rabbi and church leaders. When we entered the sanctuary after the service, the memorial display was still in its place. Every town we've passed through in criss-crossing this country has had flags draped in black ribbons everywhere. The TV stations are running nonstop coverage of the happenings and the history.
While Poland focuses on their WW2 tragedies, so do we. Today we visited Sobibor, where 250,000 Jews met their demise in a 16 month period before the famous revolt (inspired by the Warsaw Ghetto uprising). Then, we went to another infamous locale, Maidanek, just outside Lublin - in fact, not even. This is the best preserved camp, with gas chambers and crematoria intact - it was quite moving for the kids walk through them, and then to see the huge mound of human ashes recovered after the war.
I've studied the Shoah for most of my life, but until this trip I was never able to really put the pieces together. The staff has been superb and the kids even better. But now we are definitely ready to let loose and head for Israel tomorrow night. Before then we'll see the Warsaw Ghetto remnants and Treblinka tomorrow. Then we're off.
I've chronicled the experience in photos uploaded to http://picasaweb.google.com/joshuahct/MarchOfTheLiving22010# - scroll down half way for today's photos.
Find earlier photos at http://picasaweb.google.com/joshuahct/MarchOfTheLiving2010#
Goodnight from Warsaw. I'll likely not be able to write home until after Shabbat - so Shabbat Shalom to all!
Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Friday, April 30, 2010
March of the Living: Killing Fields
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