Jews were murdered. Millions of Jews, ruthlessly slaughtered as though they were nothing. As though they meant nothing to the world. Their existence wasn’t important, in fact, it was more of a nuisance than anything else.
along with another Emanuel School student I participated in March of the Living, a two week programme in Poland and Israel to learn about the Holocaust, and see first-hand the atrocities that occurred just over seventy years ago. We, along with three students from Melbourne, two students from Auckland, and seventeen students from America’s East Coast, as well as an amazing group of staff and adults, explored our collective history and heritage as a people.
We went to different concentration camps while on March of the Living: Treblinka, Majdanek, Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Plaszow and the Warsaw Ghetto, all of which gave us a lot of insight into different aspects of the Holocaust and the Polish experience.
The trip was highly emotional, as we traced the paths that many of our family members took before being led to their certain death. It is impossible to write a short enough article to fit everything I want to say into it, so I would like to focus on one of the many places we went to in Poland; Majdanek.
For me, Majdanek was by far the most overwhelmingly conspicuous place we went to, as it was extremely unique, but also greatly defined the immense brutality and inhumanity of the Nazis. Majdanek wasn’t originally made for Jews, and only a third of the people murdered there were Jews. It was an extremely graphic place, and what I found hardest to cope with was the fact that the ovens in which the corpses were being cremated, were heating up a sauna for the Nazis to use while they waited for the bodies to be completely turned to ash. At the end of Majdanek, there is a mound of ash. It’s massive and it isn’t even all of it. A lot of the ash was used as fertiliser for the Nazi’s farms and a lot of it has spread across the camp over time. I feel as though that sums up the entirety of human brutality. One thing which also struck me at Majdanek was how, out of the black soil, coloured by human ash, grew very pretty flowers. While the people murdered at Majdanek didn’t necessarily have human offspring, they still produced life.
The March itself was truly amazing, as we marched in pride of being Jewish in solidarity with Jews from all over the world, and going to Israel at the end reminded me of how lucky we are to be alive, and how far we’ve come as a people. March of the Living was a very important experience and it really gave us an extra layer to our already extensive knowledge of this darkest of periods in human history. Being there and seeing everything first hand was incredibly surreal and put a lot of things in perspective for me.
By Miriam, Year 11