By Becca Newman, Bus 7 Participant
This past year in school, I had the opportunity to learn about the Holocaust throughout the entire month of March. We took as long as needed to make sure we understood the significance of it and what really happened. Going to Auschwitz – Birkenau with Crane Lake Camp as part of NFTY in Israel, I felt as prepared as I could be to experience the viewing of this emotional site.
The night before going to the concentration camps, we went over a few stories of people who were both victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust. It was crazy to see how their day to day lives prior to this horrible situation had been so similar, yet by the time religion and other issues came into factor, the parallel gaps grew larger.
At this point, I was dreading to go. The truth is, though, one of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t be able to feel anything when I got there. What if I was SO in shock that my brain couldn’t comprehend that all of this death and torture actually took place there? I knew I felt so much emotion for the Holocaust but I was also worried it would be too much for me to handle.
The next morning, July 5th, we stepped on to the bus around 7:30AM and headed over. As soon as we arrived, what I noticed first was the entrance of the concentration camp. All I could think was “Wow, this is actually real and I am legitimately here right now.” When I stepped off the bus and saw the entrance of the camp, I didn’t even want to go in, I was absolutely terrified of what was to come. We walked through the front gates aligning with the horrid train tracks prisoners would arrive from and I felt tears building up inside of me, but nothing would come out. I was right about one thing, I was incredibly shocked to be viewing this camp, but I most definitely did not feel nothing. As we walked around the many miles of Auschwitz, I couldn’t speak. I walked alone and was always towards the back of my group because I wanted to make sure I took it all in. I somehow couldn’t take my eyes away. I never cried though because it was almost as if I was feeling too much pain for a tear to even form. One could say I was having too many thoughts at once, but if I could somehow make every single person see what I saw that day, I would in an instant.
Seeing all of this though, I understood that it wasn’t just a struggle that the Jews and other prisoners went through, but more so power and strength was travelling through their veins. The Holocaust is always seen as “the killing of the Jews” but it’s more than that. These people were put into camps, tortured, and starved for years, yet still fought hard and were determined to come out alive. Although every belonging had been taken from them, there was something that most of the victims had, and that was hope. They wished what was happening would end and it did. People would try their best to keep a positive mindset in a situation like this and without that no one would have survived.
There is more of a lesson to this day though then just proving to Holocaust deniers that yes, these millions of deaths of straight up discrimination are real. It shows the power of how such a simple word or action can go much further than intended. It is important to always be kind and stand up for what you believe in because if those few discriminating people had been stopped then this mass genocide may have never gotten so far.