A survivor from Auschwitz once stated "Those who were in will never go out and those who were not in Auschwitz will never go in". But here we all were standing at the gate leading into this very place that we are told we will never actually go inside to. Yes we were about to walk into a place where people once suffered, a concentration camp and eventually a death camp but the truth is we never walked into a concentration camp we rather walked into a museum of a camp where we are able to learn about our past and the hardships the generations before us faced. We attempted to absorb the atrocities that were performed in this place and we witnessed their suffering. With tear-filled eyes but passion in our hearts and souls we finally found our connection to our past and tried to breach the gap between us as free people standing in Auschwitz today and the world that used to exist at this very place 70 years ago.
With Concentration Comes Revelation - Aidan Francis
I realised how often it is that one launches themselves into a jeremiad of how miserable something is. Even today, whilst standing inside Auschwitz, I complain about being tired; others complain about tuna. There we are, in the middle of a place where thousands died, and we complain about things that would seem euphoric to the victims. How detached can one become from being in the moment so as to complain about such inane things in a place such as this. This is the way of man I suppose, in the moment nothing is more vital than our trivial discomforts. They say this trip shall change me, perhaps this is what will change in me.
Standing outside Schindler's factory today, we were brought back to the theme of "choices" that we had previously discussed in our pre-departure sessions in Johannesburg. Take a man like Oscar Schindler, who was at one point a perpetrator in the Holocaust. He then made a choice to save Jews by giving them a place to work in his factory.
As we stood outside Schindler's factory, we listened to Kim (our Madirachah) speak about how her grandfather and great-uncle were saved by Oscar Schindler. As Kim told us this story, I was feeling inspired and felt a sense of hope. How Schindler was once a perpetrator and he became a righteous gentile. If it wasn't for Oscar's choice to save those 1000 Jews that he saved, we would not have been standing outside listening to Kim tell her story - she would not be here. I realized today how important our choices are and how they don't only effect the present moment. They have an effect on the future
Here I sit, today is Freedom Day and I’m am counting down the days, in fact hours until I leave. All the forms have been filled out and all the documents have been read. All the sessions are over and all the films have been watched. I have my passport and my copies of various I.D.’s ready and waiting to be packed. I even have an outfit picked out for the day I leave.
All this preparation has been necessary for the journey I’m about to embark on. And yet, for some unknown reason I feel as if my mind is still unprepared for what I’m about to experience. I’ve read books and researched events. I am currently reading ‘Escape from Sobibor’ by Richard Rashke. But no matter how much I prepare, I know that nothing will compare to the act of physically going to all these places. I acknowledge that this trip will stir cobwebbed emotions that I have let lay sound asleep for a time.
As a person who goes to a non-Jewish high school, and also being the only person travelling from Durban, I know that the toll of the trip will be one that I cannot expect empathy for. Realistically I know that I will be able to stay in contact with the plethora of personalities I meet on the trip, but ideally I would have had someone who would not only have a mutual understanding of the trip but better yet, someone I’d physically be able to see. Nevertheless, that is not something I should ponder too much about, it is a way away and I will surely be able to find closure through another method. As for now, I will continue to read my book and study up on the techniques of Hitler’s pseudo-science.
To be truthful, I have never been so excited and nervous at the same time. The suspense of it all is reaching its peak and at the same time my anxiety is riding on its back. As of right now I have T-minus 105 hours until I board the plane and begin an entirely new aspect of who I am. I am at a loss for words trying to describe my current mentality.
Many Jewish Communities have the custom of reciting Psalm 107, written by King David some 3000 years ago. In this context it is used as a Psalm of thanksgiving for having survived the Slavery in Egypt. Yet if we meditate on the expressions I have highlighted, it would seem more accurate that King David wasn’t historically reflecting on the past but rather prophesying about events of the future…
... And gathered them out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the sea.  They wandered in the wilderness in a desert way; they found no city of habitation.  Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.  Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses...  Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron--  Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High.  Therefore He humbled their heart with travail, they stumbled, and there was none to help--  They cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses.  He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands in sunder.  Let them give thanks unto the LORD for His mercy, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  For He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.  Crazed because of the way of their transgression, and afflicted because of their iniquities--  Their soul abhorred all manner of food, and they drew near unto the gates of death--  They cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses;  He sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their graves...  They reeled to and fro, and staggered like a drunken man, and all their wisdom was swallowed up--
March of the Living 2016 youth participants,
In less than two weeks, we will be leaving on our momentous journey - a multi-layered educational experience abound with opportunities.
The main motivation for going on this trip is to see, first hand, what happened to 6 million of our people. To a large extent, this is a journey into the imagination, as what we are looking for, no longer exists. To access this wealth of Jewish history and culture, we will go to the remnants of some of the sights where this tragedy took place, and we will use testimonies, diaries, eye-witness accounts and DVD’s to fill in the gaps. We will travel to some of the areas of great Jewish learning such as the Lublin Yeshivah, see some of the graves of great Jewish sages in the cemetery of Warsaw, and start to appreciate what was lost. We will go to 3 camps, where the magnitude of this murder will begin to be appreciated. We will meet Holocaust Survivors, Righteous Among the Nations, Polish Youth and hear heart-breaking as well as inspiring stories. We will constantly debrief what we are seeing, and we will debate some of the more nuanced and complex issues that arise.