a Third-generation Holocaust survivor.
I’m still looking for the million-dollar question- how did something like that happen in a civilized society? That is the reason why I find myself repeatedly going back to Poland. So far, I visited the death camps three times in an attempt to find an answer to that question. An answer I’m not even sure I will ever get.
I was seventeen when I went on an educational trip to the death camps in Poland for the first time. At the time, I wasn’t capable of comprehending the events that took place nor capable of understanding the depth of the emotions that arise while being there. I wasn’t crying or behaving as I was “expected” to react, which caused me to feel apathetic to my surroundings as well as to the stories that were being told. In addition to all of that, I needed to face my own thoughts and questions about my behavior and capabilities of dealing with such an issue.
As I got older and went on additional visits to Poland, I realized that the educational trip to Auschwitz has to be a journey that celebrates Life and not Death. We need to stop checking off death camps as if from a checklist and not try to squeeze emotion all the time from every possible gland. We have to put much more emphasis on asking the right questions to begin with, like how can it be that an ordinary man, “just another” soldier woke up every morning, kissed his kids, ate his breakfast with his family, then went to another day in the “office” and participated in the murder of millions of innocent human beings. As I was thinking about it more and more, I’ve realized that in every one of us there is the potential to become evil, to participate in an evil act, and hurt others.
We have to understand that the Holocaust isn’t just a “Jewish thing” but rather a global story that relates to every human being. People have to get out of Auschwitz asking themselves what they can do to become a better person, end racism, deal with discrimination and how educate themselves about people that are different from us. Each one of us needs to ask ourselves, “what kind of person do I want to be?”