Today was one of the most emotionally exhausting days I’ve lived through. We started off the morning by visiting Sokolow, a small town that once was home to 6000 Jews. Sokolow was turned into a ghetto when Germany invaded. The small town of 10,000 people seemed to be a living historical site. Many of the houses were in the same or similar condition as they were during the Shoa. It was confusing to see people living in a place that is so tragic to our people. Old synagogues, mikvahs, and other religious sites were turned into shops or houses. The most difficult thing in the city was the mass grave. In 1942 the ghetto of Sokolow was terminated in a mere 3 days. All but 200 teens. These able bodied kids were left behind to clean the ghetto and work as labourers. When they ceased to be useful, they were forced to dig their own grave and were then shot and buried. I know that many kids were killed in the Shoa, but it was the location of the grave that tore up my soul. It was in a person’s backyard. In the yard, one could see a basketball net, a sign of children. When I thought about some young Polish chiIdren playing ball with the spirits of 200 Jewish kids I started to cry. These people were so desensitized to the Shoa that it was a part of their everyday life, and that is a hard truth to swallow.
Our next destination was Treblinka, nothing in the world can prepare you for this place. If you have never been then I urge you to go. If you have been, then you know exactly what I mean. Treblinka is a large field in the middle of the forest with a monument of stone decorated with the carving of victims faces. They call these 875,000 “victims of fascism,” really they are the victims of Hitler’s wrath and antisemitism. The field is covered in different sized jagged stones. Some of the stones are barren, others carry the names of cities where the Nazis rounded up Jews and forced them to their deaths. The most remarkable thing about Treblinka is the butterflies. There are thousands of the beautiful creatures in this field of nightmares. Some people found this confusing, why would a place so terrible be so beautiful? I found it comforting. To me Treblinka is the home of 875, 000 Jewish souls. They had to die in the most horrific of ways, but now they get to live in a place of beauty. Treblinka made me sad, it made me angry, and it made me feel full of sorrow, but most of all it filled me with a mission to avenge the Jewish people by living and with a sense of pride for Israel. I cried in Treblinka, yet I walked out of the death camp not with tears but with singing and with my head held high.
I would like to share a poem that I wrote in the camp, in a moment where I have felt more than ever before. I cannot stand for these atrocities and must avenge the victims in a way that I can.
I will not stand.
I will not stand.
I WILL NOT STAND.
I WILL NOT STAND
One butterfly for every soul.
I cry not for me. I cry for those forgotten.
They were scarred.
They were condemned.
For being Jewish they met their end.
Some were brave and fought with their spirit.
Others went awaiting death.
NONE WERE SHEEP.
ALL WERE JEWS.
ALL WERE PEOPLE.
ALL WERE G_DS CHILDREN.
Some are lost.
Some will never be remembered.
All live on in the spirit of the Jewish people.
I will avenge them with song and life.
I will avenge them.
They suffered from the most treacherous of evils.
I will avenge them.
I will remember them.
You were treated like an animal, I will love you because you are my brother.
We are all people, we are all souls.
I will do more than remember, I will make sure the world doesn’t forget.
This is the place you met G-d, and all of you were righteous.
It was not an empty field with the remnants of a death camp.
Rather it was and is the home of 875, 000 ghosts.
I cry no more for I am strong and the Jewish souls need not tears
They need our might.