A trip to Auschwitz: A day in hell

A trip to Auschwitz: A day in hell
Warsaw Ghetto, the wall

You can read about it, see movies and meet survivors of the HOLOCAUST but until you visit and see for yourself it is difficult to imagine.

In the late 90’s my wife saw an ad in the Chicago Tribune travel section about a Jewish Heritage Tour through Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. After some inquiries we were told we would visit and see Jewish History including the concentration camps. We signed up for the trip along with a group of Canadians.

Our first stop was Budapest, Hungary and we stayed at the Forum Hotel along the Blue Danube. It was beautiful but it should have been called the Red Sea of Blood.  The Nazis (after they occupied Hungary) viewed the Blue Danube as a place of violent death.

They would tie two people together with barbed wire, shoot one of them, then throw both the live and dead persons into the Danube.  Of course, the live one drowned. The Nazis would also have prisoners lined up against each other and then open the mouth of one so the bullet would also kill the other person.  On display at the river’s edge there are iron shoes as an exhibit showing how the Jews removed their shoes before they were drowned.

The next phase of our trip was the Doheny Street Temple, the largest Temple in Europe. It was a house of worship where one would pray.  From a house of prayer it became a holding place for those destined to be shipped to Auschwitz.  A brick wall was built around the entire temple so no one could escape. The wall has been razed but part of it remains for generations to come and bear witness.

From Hungary we flew to Poland; a distressed city following the war.  After settling in our hotel room we were taken by bus to Warsaw.   We were taken at the site of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that stunned the entire group.  There, erected on the site was a marble wall dedicating the site to martyrs of the uprising.  The marble was originally intended by the Nazis to be a monument to a dead people, The Jews of Poland.

Mercifully the stone was captured by the Allies to build a different type of monument. There was a monument dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg the Swedish diplomat that saved thousands of Jews during the war.  And a statue of Janus Korchak who accompanied a dozen or more children to the death camp of Auschwitz.  Korchak did not have to  be shipped but he wanted to be with his children.

Now we were to be taken to hell itself. Auschwitz-Birkenau the most notorious concentration in Europe. It was the most dreaded spot on earth and feared by all.

Tomorrow Part Two: To stand in Auschwitz.

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