Liora Levin's impressions, Trip to Poland, November 2005
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My big dream was always going to Poland with a youth delegation following the Holocaust. Why Poland? Why a youth delegation?
Poland, because I am Jewish and my mother's family was killed in the Holocaust. They were shot to death in a hole and were buried in a mass grave.
A youth delegation, because I thought that I will learn a lot from the preparations and the journey with young people.
I will tell here only some high lights and short stories from this journey because to tell all my impressions would take a book to write it. I will jump from a day to another because I can't tell everything, so please forgive me for the sharp move from one subject to another. Another thing I want to add, as you know I am not an English speaker, so I will write it in my English and please forgive me if it is not in a proper English.
We went to Poland on November 9 2005 with a group of 220 people, students, teachers and parents after few months of preparation with many lectures.
pic 1 : memorial ceremony by a small group of the delegation
The first place we have visited was the Lodz ghetto.
Besides walking to see all of what it was, we went in the evening to see the impressive monument for the holocaust there.The monument is near the railway station where the Nazis have brought the people transports. It was dark, we have entered all of us to one wagon, we were squashed there like the people were there during the transports and one girl was looking through the window ( picture No.2)
pic 2 kids in the wagon
and we have heard a sad music from a tape. It was one of my saddest moments in my life…. We felt the people being there….after it, we went to see the impressive monument. There was a long corridor with the names of the Jewish communities that were annihilated in the Holocaust, but because of the dark that added to the feeling it was difficult to show it in a picture.
On the second day, we have been in an extermination camp called Treblinka.
Between the dates7.22.1942-8.30.1943 the Nazis have annihilated 900.000 Jews! They have brought a train with 20 wagons that contained 2000 people each time. Sometimes they couldn't let them out so they stayed crowded there and died in the wagons.(pictures No.3,4)
pic 3 pic 4
When the people went down from the wagons, they were led with cruelty through a long corridor, they were beaten, undressed and were led naked through this long corridor to the gas chambers for 32 minutes until they died while standing crowded together. When they opened the doors, they collected the bodies and buried them in big graves.
At the end of 3.1943 the Nazis started to destroy the evidence so they took the bodies out of the graves, burned them and dispersed the ashes from the burned bodies all over Treblinka.
On the way we heard many stories about small villages where the people were destroyed in a few days and have been buried in a big graves, my mother's family was killed in the same way, my grandfather, grandmother, two aunts, husbands and kids…. I never met them…..too sad…..
On the next day we went to Warsaw ghetto. (picture No.5)
pic 5 Jewish cemetery in Warsaw
At the beginning of the war there were about 350.000 Jews and 50.000 others there, by the end of the war, 100.00 people have died from starvation and diseases. About 300.000 people went to Treblinka and after the war, rested about 60.000 people that most of them have been died in the Warsaw ghetto riot.
On the next day we went to another extermination camp called Belzetz. (picture No.7, 8)
pic 7 parents and kids in the ceremomy in Belzetz pic 8 Death camp - Belzets
Between the dates 3.1942-5.1943 about 600.000 Jews have been annihilated.
There was Reinhart operation in three extermination camps, Treblinka, Bezetz and Sobivor.
They wanted to destroy as many Jews as possible in a short time, so a man called General Golobotsky have established those three camps and in a period of 15 months they have killed about 1.700.000 Jews in top secret, no body knew about it, all the people that took part in it have signed on a secrecy declaration without pictures and reports…. The places that have been chosen for that target were very isolated so that no-one would notice was going on there.
Another extermination of about 1.000.000 Jews were in very big holes and the people were shot there with a machine gun and buried there some of them still alive….that took only 6 months….
On the next day we went to Meidaneck. (picture No.10)
pic 10 : Mejdanek Camp
This concentration camp is on the border of the town of Lublin. It began as a prisoners camp and became an extermination camp. In this place have been destroyed about 250.000 people, 60% of them by indirect destruction by shooting, illness and starving.
It was working between 10/1041-7/1944, when the Russian army came.
In the middle of the year 1943, the gas chambers and the crematoriums have been opened there.
One thing that gave me a big shock, was a big monument containing a huge quantity of people ash from the crematorium. (pictures No. 11,12)
pic 11 : 7 Tons of ash !!! pic 12: The Crematorium
I want to share with you one story that caused me a big shock.
There was one day that the Nazis collected 18.300 Jews around big holes to kill them with a machine-gun and to cover up the noises they used a loud music.
When the neighbors of this camp have asked what is that music, the Nazis have said that today is the "HARVEST DAY"! in Hebrew there is a double meaning for this word, this is to harvest grains and to harvest people (killing them).
It was one of the strongest stories that I have heard there….
On the other day, we went to another concentration camp called Plashov, there have been destroyed about 8000 Jews.
The commander of this camp named Hemond Get was a very cruel man.
There was another shocking story when he took all the kids of that camp about 400 that were in the kindergarten, put them on trucks and sent them to Auchwitz to be killed. When the parents saw the trucks with the kids they started to run after them but without success, the trucks with the kids went to Auchwitz and the parents didn't see their kids again….
On the last day we visited the horrible place of Auchwitz-Birkenau.
This camp was working between 4/1941-1/1944.(pictures No.13,14)
pic 13 pic 14
In this camp have been exterminated about 1.100.000 people. Most of them in the crematorium. There were 5 triplets of crematoriums, 15 chambers in total! (picture No.15)
This place was a concentration and extermination camp. The conditions there were horrible! Very crowded and dirty. Many people died there from illness. There are not enough words to describe that horror….I will attach some pictures that maybe will demonstrate that horror about the big line of the holes that were the toilets where the people were made to go there together for a few minutes, no privacy and no dignity…. (picture No.16)
I want to share another story. When we went there, our guide stopped near one of the guarding towers and scattered there sand from a little nylon bag and he told us that story.
In one of his delegations, was a woman from Jerusalem, Israel that asked him to find a proper place for scattering the sand she brought from Israel and she told him her story that Her Mother was killed in Birkenau, her father was killed in another concentration camp name Teriesenshtat and her grandson was killed in the army in Israel. She took with her in a plastic bag sand from the path between the "Hertzel mountain" where her grandson is buried to "Yad Vashem"a very known memorial place for the holocaust that exist near the "Hertzel mountain" and wanted to scatter it in an appropriate place in Birkenau, and the guide found this place for her.
And from that moment, when he is coming there with a delegation, he is taking with him a bag with sand from Israel and scattering it there….
In the end of that visit, every one got a red rose and was asked to put that rose in a place that made the biggest impression, I put my rose there…..
Then we went for our last place in that horrible day to what it called Auchwitz 1.
In that place was living the commander of this camp Rudolf Hess. He lived there with his family and like "normal" people he hosted guests with their families and kids in his house there VERY close to the crematorium.
When they went home, the guests were signing in the guest book how wonderful time they had in these vacation…this book has been found….
At the end of that day we went to the museum there where people's things have been found like shoes in Millions, human hair, kids and babies dresses, suitcases with names and so on….again, I will add pictures.
(pictures No. 18,19, 20, 21, 22, 23)
After that, we had the most exciting ceremony in all this long week in the Jewish museum there.
That place is called, "every person has a name" .We have been sitting on the floor in the dark with all the Jewish communities that have been destroyed mentioned there on the walls lightening in the darkness, we have been lighting candles for their memories and every one that had a family member that had been killed in the holocaust stood up and lit a candle for them. I too lit a candle for my grandparents, aunts with their husbands and kids and I mentioned EVERY NAME….(pictures 24,25)
pic 24 pic 25
I can't even tell you in words the emotion that was there…. The amount of tears from the kids and adults that were there…. That was one of the saddest moments in all this week…..
I want to end my impressions with a human story about a woman called Aliza Baruch.
That woman was from Saloniki in Greece and she was in Aushwittz.
There she met a young man that had been tortured, she heard him crying out in her language and she came to him to see what happened.
After that they were in touch with letters corresponding .She didn't know that this young fellow have fallen in love with her…he told her that after the war they will meet again in Greece…
Then during the war in this horrible place, she was one of the women that the Horrible Dr. Mengale used for medical expperiments…
He wanted to take out the Jewish women's ovaries and to see what happened.
With him was working a Jewish doctor that Dr. Mengale had studied under.
When this doctor came to this camp with his family he saw Dr. Mengale and asked for mercy for his family, in a reward, all his family went to the gas chambers and he stayed alive for using his medical abilities…..
That man had to operate on Aliza Baruch and to take her ovaries out.
In the middle of the operation, after he had removed only one of her ovaries, a siren have been heard and all the people, including Dr. Mengale that was watching the operations, went to the shelter.
The doctor has told Aliza to be quiet and said that one day she will thank him….
After the war, she came back to Greece and met there this young man that was in love with her, waiting for her and wanted to marry her.
She was evading all the time and when he was pushing her and told her how much he loves her, she told him that she accept to marry him with two conditions that he has to sign, the first condition is that they will go to Israel, and the second condition that she will never have children as she has no ovaries( she didn't know that one ovary remained).He signed immediately because he loved her so much….
They came to Israel and started a new life.
He was a big and strong man and built everything with his hands in his new home.
One day was a rumor between the neighbors that Aliza is becoming fatter every day. He took her to the doctor and asked him what happened, then the doctor went out from her exam and congratulated him for being a father soon.
This man have lifted the doctor by his collar, as being a strong man, and said, don't make fun of me, my wife can't have children as she hasn't ovaries. The doctor, barely could breath promised him that in a short time they will have a child.
After a short time, she had a boy and after few years she had a girl too.
This boy is one of our famous poets in Israel.
Written by Liora Levin
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