Today was exhausting. I felt haunted and sick walking through Majdanek, which is situated on the outskirts of the city of Lublin. We drove through the entrance, which was right off one of the main streets. In the near distance I could see commercial buildings and apartments. We stood near the entrance by a memorial listening to Rav Shiloni. I cannot even remember the name of the memorial or what it symbolized. It was like I had lost all ability to hear at the time. I sat there watching a little girl with a pink bicycle riding by, right outside the camp, her family strolling close behind. I felt so much anger towards this little girl. She was completely oblivious to her surroundings, and the history in the earth she rode on. I knew she was only a little girl, maybe 6 years old, and couldn’t have known, but I couldn’t shake that disgusting presence until leaving Majdanek.
The concentration camp today was our first time seeing remains intact from the camp rather than a memorial. Walking through, I saw people screaming, being beaten, lying on the stones. I shuffled through and my feet felt heavy. I felt like I was being dragged down by these people. They were begging for help and there was nothing I could do but continue to trek along.
Visions of my ancestors haunted me throughout the next 4 hours here. Standing inside the gas chamber having the door slammed shut brought out a terror in me that I never knew was there. For that split second I was scared for my life. I was brought back to the 1940s and I was in that gas chamber, awaiting the moment where I will be struggling with my breath. The moment where my family and friends will be climbing over bodies, scratching the walls, crying out just to speed up the process. All I could do was stand there. I couldn’t knock myself out of this image I had transported to. I tried to let out words but the only things that made it out were sobs.
As we ventured further, I felt sick to my stomach looking at piles upon piles of their shoes. The ashes stunned me. The number of people that were killed in this war was never tangible to me until this moment. As Rav Shiloni explained, one person was represented by the size of a yogurt container. All I could do was stare. These ashes were unimaginable. Throughout my life the Holocaust has never been completely understandable to me. My imagination could only stretch so far. Walking through the camp today was a horrible, yet necessary, awakening.
In the words of Marc Fein, although we may become broken along our journey, the things we pick up along the way will fill in the cracks, making us far more beautiful and unique afterwards. The cracks in me from today, and this trip in general, are great and deep. But I know the person I am becoming and experiences I am gaining through this are going to have influence over every thought and decision I make in my future. I can no longer look at the world with the same, insensible, point of view.