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Home September 2023 Jlife Buzz-Marlboro Jewish Center’s Journey of Remembrance

Jlife Buzz-Marlboro Jewish Center’s Journey of Remembrance

By Heidi Morrow

    As we approached the gates of Auschwitz, I looked up at the beautiful blue sky and my eyes caught the weeping willow trees which lined our impending path. The gentle breeze caused them to quiver, and I thought of the millions of souls that were punished, brutalized and murdered here on this land, in this place. I felt as though their souls were beckoning us to enter, to learn, to process, and to grieve this horrific time in our history. A time, that we, the Jewish people suffered.
    The gates of Auschwitz appeared small to me, much smaller than I imagined. And those words Arbeit Macht Frei, Work Makes You Free, haunted me. As I approached, I whispered the Shema and proceeded through those gates.
    We walked on the hallowed ground where the bodies, blood and ashes were strewn all those years ago. We proceeded to the rooms where the victims were stripped of so much more than their clothing. Their hair shaved off their heads, they were sent to showers, which were gas chambers only to be murdered and then cremated in the ovens. Those who were determined to be strong and useful were worked and starved to death. The babies, the children, how can any human treat another this abhorrently?
    We locate our families’ names in the directory. I see my grandfather’s name and date of birth. This leaves an indelible imprint upon me. I feel his fear, their grief, their terror, their hope.
    It’s been a month since our trip to Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau and I am slowly processing the experience.  At times I feel numb, and I’ve shared very little with family & friends about the concentration camps.
    During the trip, a memory populated in my photos. It was my grandchildren smelling flowers along the walkway to our home. A reminder of their innocence and the freedoms they have. A reminder they/we must breathe in life.  A reminder to me that I’m not living the nightmare of my ancestors.  A reminder that Jewish life must always go on. The traditions and survival are so important.
    I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and Yad Vashem in Israel. This trip, to Krakow and Greece has been the most profound of my life. I will carry with me always Rabbi Pont and the friends, and memories I’ve made during this experience. I will carry the victims in my heart forever. I will share my experience with others, when I can find the words.

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