Sharing the Pain
By Megan Ware
Brooksville, FL


 

We were taken away, in the dead of night like cattle in cars, no air to breathe smothering, crying, starving, dying. Separated from the world to be no more. From the ashes, hear our plea. This atrocity to mankind can not happen again. Remember us, for we were the children whose dreams and lives were stolen away. (1)

On July 4, 2003 I was touched by the holocaust. On that day, a day when most Americans were celebrating independence and patriotism, my family and I were commiserating pain and anguish. There are no words that can describe it and nothing that can prepare you for it. I am speaking of Auschwitz, and my unforgettable, life-changing experience.
In 1994 we opened our home and our hearts to a Polish exchange student. Pawel, who we affectionately nicknamed P.J., was just like a brother to me. He always assured us that someday we would visit him in Poland. We were pleasantly surprised in 2003 when he contacted us and invited us to visit his homeland.

During this fascinating trip we saw many interesting places such as Krakow, the salt mine, and the beautiful Polish countryside. One day my dad mentioned visiting Auschwitz and I really didn't think twice about it. I wasn't certain what this was going to be but I was eager to find out. In the parking lot I began to think about the theme parks and attractions I have visited in Florida. But here there was no admission charge. Later I realized that the value of this trip to me was priceless.

As we entered I suddenly realized that this visit would be unlike anything I had ever seen. There were train tracks and layers of barbed wire on an electrified fence. I looked at the gate and saw the phrase Arbeit Macht Frei with a backward "b". P.J. explained to me that the phrase meant "work is liberating" and the letter was done intentionally as a warning of the cruel untruth. The next haunting sign beckons you as follows: "You are entering a place of exceptional horror and tragedy. Please show your respect for those who suffered and died here, behaving in a manner suitable to the dignity of their memory."(2)

We entered several of the red brick barracks and began to share the stories of Auschwitz. A letter from a young girl to her brother touched me. She was unsure about her fate but sent her love and hoped to return home soon. It was her last letter. The walls of these museum areas contained pictures of prisoners.

Those that registered survived an average of two to three months. Each picture had the date the prisoner arrived and the date they died. Each one was a person, a soul, just like me.

I could see the anguish on P.j.'s face as he explained to me how the Nazis attempted to destroy the Polish people. Polish language was forbidden. Polish art and culture were obliterated. Churches and synagogues were destroyed. Many doctors, attorneys, professors, and clergymen were targeted. These atrocities were hidden from the world. I saw him begin to tear up so we continued on.

Next we saw a small brick building with a large smoke stack. I stood in a room where women, told to undress for a shower, instead choked to death on the Cyclon B gas that was pumped into the crowded room. Then I saw the hideous ovens where the bodies were burned. Suddenly I felt the eyes of a thousand souls looking at me. I heard "help me" and "save me." The sadness and despair of standing in a spot where millions were murdered began to affect me.

We proceeded to cell blocks 10 and 11, and saw the sign for the "Wall of Death." Here prisoners were shot to death. There were flowers placed at the base of the wall. Out of respect for those souls I remained silent. A tour guide that was speaking loudly in English bothered me. There was a torture pole where prisoners were hung with their arms tied behind their back. I began to feel the pain. I was horrified but fascinated and wanted to share the lives of those who had suffered and died here.

I could only think that I would have been one of those who threw themselves against the electric fence just to be free. But then I thought that would allow the Nazis to triumph, and we must never give up the fight against evil. I was horrified but fascinated and wanted to share the lives of those who had suffered and died here. It was a difficult experience for my mother so we soon left but I vowed to make a difference.

Evil continues to reopen a wound that will not heal even after sixty years. A sixteen-year-old teen in Minnesota killed nine people in a recent shooting rampage. He had posted messages on a neo-Nazi web site expressing admiration for Adolph Hitler. He used the nickname "Todesengel" or German angel of death.(3) Five neo-Nazis were convicted of plotting to explode a bomb during the dedication of a new Munich synagogue and Jewish community center in 2003.(4) In addition to this, the Anti-Defamation League reports that anti-semitic incidents in the United States are at their highest levels in nine years. (5)
There are worldwide efforts to combat the hatred. Six thousand anti-Nazi protesters broke up a recent neo-Nazi march of 200 people in Munich. (6) People may finally be "fed up". Groups like the World Jewish Congress have been fighting the holocaust for seventy years. There are numerous websites with holocaust projects, poems, and essays. Pope John Paul II, who recently passed away, was praised by Jewish groups for his efforts to unify all of humanity.(7)

My goal is to share my experience with others. I have talked to German classes and American history classes. My friends and family are fascinated by my sad tale. I would love to tell my story to anyone who will listen. Those souls are with me now and they need my help. My only wish is that people who are filled with hatred could be forced to share the horror of the camp. If they could only share what I felt then maybe there could be some hope for them, to prevent a repeat of the grimmest chapter of history.


Bibliography

(1) Sonek, Barbara. "Holocaust". Holocaust Poetry,
www.auschwitz.dk.
(2) Maxwell, Bill. "Humanity's evil haunts grounds at
Auschwitz. St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, FL. October 1,
2000. page Dl.
(3) "Shooting Rampage By Minnesota Teen Leaves Nine Dead".
Latest News. www.newslO.net. March 22, 2005.

(4) "Court convicts conspirators of foiled bomb attack on
Munich synagogue". World Jewish Congress Online#article_3725.
www.worldjewishcongress.org. April 6, 2005.
(5) "Anti-Semitism in the USA on the rise".
Online#article_3275. April 5, 2005.
(6) "Protests in Munich against neo-Nazi rally".
Online#article_3275. April 4, 2005.
(7) "Jewish praise for achievements of Pope John Paul II".
Online#article_3275. April 4, 2005.
 

 


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