Day 32: The Journey.
It is now September 10th. but this is 2014 and not some 80 years earlier when the World was a different place. It is an ordinary day for me, by any standards! There is nothing to compare it differently from any other day except that it begins with Me setting off on a journey. It is a journey filled with an excited and uninvited trepidation. I love to travel. I love to meet people. I engage people wherever I meet them. Yet here I am, bound to a visit with a past that has - as a result - destruction for 6,000,000 People. For those Jews who journeyed before Me, it was a journey into a massive void. These Jewish People were driven toward a place of desolation, a place of destruction for their own People. That these Jews were delivered to the Killing Sites of Europe, has been attested to, is testified to, has been attributed to and has been fully acknowledged!
That all too many of these Jewish People, Men, Women and Their Children were consumed within the Death Camps of Poland and were eradicated from our presence is a Fact of our History! Any deviation from that Fact will make History lack integrity. So here I am ready for a journey which begins with a first tentative step! Each of us looks forward to the break. The vacation. The holiday we have planned for! The money all saved for that particular event! Some, with a positive - though Childish - zeal, journey forth. Whilst for others, who are filled with a certain trepidation, they move more cautiously. There are unclaimed reasons to stay put, to not venture forth, to remain home, to build the barricade around themselves. There is a feel of the unexpected. There is the knowledge of a fear of the unknown which deliberates a path!
For me, and my unexpected Journey, this is a chance to confront a past for which I have studied and Researched going back many years! I have written three Books now on the subject, which severely troubles me. The embodiment of that concern is for the 6,000,000 Murdered Jews of Europe in The Holocaust. What troubles me is that it happened and there is now a need to Write of an aspect of Human nature that is so terrible, it shocks us 80 years later.
"..Those who begin by burning Books end by burning People." Heinrich Heine.
While others will adorn the Beaches, some might study the relevance of Art from the Renaissance of many Countries. There will be many more who will marvel at the Architecture of some of the World’s most wonderful Constructions. But for my own particular need, for me even to attempt to comprehend further what I know to be an awful affront to our own morality, I test the waters. What has been levelled at Humanity is an assault upon the very integrity of all that should have proved compassionate. Though cloaked in terms so mealy mouthed, there are apologists so swift to gorge themselves on its demeaning values, Ethics is vanquished from the arena of History by a denial that is both fraudulent and corrupted by race hatred.
There is, in my expectation however, that once I have placed my first steps upon the threshold of the world's largest Cemetery, my journey will not end as I would have intended. I will try and hold onto some form of reason, that will prevent me from sinking into an emotional stupor. I will delve further into a recess of mankind’s ignominy and search out Man’s innate ability to destroy one's fellow Man! I will assemble thoughts of betrayal, hatred, Intolerances and Indifference and I will seek a way through, and toward an understanding that the Jews of yesterday must have felt abandoned by. So is this then to be my pilgrimage?
Is there a redeeming factor that will enlighten Me in some way? Will I, just like my own work surely proposes, chance upon and seek from the awful past a lesson I can bring to the present? Will that recognition, which will deliver a better future for us all come from some apparition? I guess I will have to wait and see and in some way, add weight to all my own efforts in adding newer meaning to the indescribable and senseless Slaughter of 6,000,000 Innocent Jewish Lives?
Today, setting off on this odyssey begins with material preparedness, and whilst an emotional undercurrent sweeps all before me, the gateway to a hell of some sort awaits me over the coming three days! As I make my journey, I hope to share with those of you reading this, a feeling that is omnipresent for All Jews in the World, and it is a deluge of such loss, we others have but a term to acknowledge it, The Holocaust. It is for me then, in visiting a graveyard for the Jews of all Europe, a chance to redeem some form of relevance from my visit. In as much as was done to so many by so few and in the name of all we must despise, I write of a contentious episode that happened close by and not so long ago!
1939 September 10th. Rawa 23 of Mazowiecka’s Jews are murdered.
Barely a week after Hitler invaded Poland, the Massacre at Mazowiecka itself was witnessed by Leni Riefenstahl. I make a very blatant contention here and suggest she undoubtedly reported this Fact to Hitler. Though we do not have the signed acclamation of Riefenstahl, we must suppose the work of a Film maker was to film and document? It is obvious from Hitler that he saw the work that Riefenstahl did as complementing his very own efforts. The propaganda Hitler waged was aimed at neutralising all opposition, and the gain would be a dominion of the lands of Europe and Russia and their Peoples! Riefenstahl glorified the myth that was Hitler, and magnified the strength Hitler commandeered.
"..Leni Riefenstahl has ..right idea ..she scours ..villages in search of ..peasant types she requires." Adolf Hitler.
We have to assume from this that Hitler was fully aware that Leni Riefenstahl was engaged in filming all details of an invasion, occupation and even the destructive force used in search of these "peasant types"? Can it be that she was a witness to the Rawa Mazowiecka murders and did not Film what she must have felt bound to Film? Can we doubt that she would have reported this to Hitler as they dined? What cannot be denied is Riefenstahl’s access to her Fuhrer. This was a man totally engaged in every detail of what he had now set in motion. In his search for Lebensraum in the expanse of Russia, that too was to prove catastrophic for the Jews of all Europe!
1941 September 10th. 6,000 of Vilna’s Jews are murdered in Ponary Woods while 854 of Merkine’s Jewish Men, Women and Their Children and 831 of Varena’s Jewish Men, Women and Their Children are also murdered. On the War front a full scale offensive against Kiev commences.
The story of Kiev in The Holocaust is a sorry one. Not that each City, Town, Village or Shtetl doesn’t throw up its own tale of horror for the Jews found there, but Kiev has a poignancy which is related to a particular ravine at Babi Yar. Such was the dynamic of this one Killing Site, where more than 100,000 Jews of Kiev were eventually Murdered, but a single killing spree within Babi Yar sets the tone. Within that 2 day period, between September 29th. and September 30th. 1941, where 33,771 Jews were Murdered, that is where the scale of the atrocity and the realisation of what could be achieved is brought to bear. Not even Auschwitz Birkenau, at the height of its Murderous endeavour could compete with the reality of more than 16,000 Jews Murdered per day!
"..before ..shooting started ..fell into ..pit. ..on dead bodies. ..people started falling on me ..came to my senses and understood everything. ..started checking my arms ..legs ..abdomen ..head. ..turned out ..not even wounded. ..pretended to be dead. Under me ..above me ..lay ..killed ..wounded. Some ..breathed ..others moaned. ..heard a child cry .."Mommy!" ..seemed like it was my little daughter. I burst into tears. ..execution went on ..people kept falling. I was pushing corpses away in fear of being buried alive. ..did this in a way so that ..policemen would not notice. ..everything was quiet. It was getting dark." Dina Pronicheva.
1942 September 10th. the 8th. Belgian Transport with 1,000 Jews aboard arrives at the Gates of Auschwitz. 715 Jewish Men, Women and Their Children are immediately gassed. Elsewhere 8,000 of Sanok’s Jews are murdered.
A frightful tale of Trains, Journeys and Transports all with a Human Cargo set for Destruction. The Jews of Europe, criss crossing all these lines of communication, cannot relive the terror they faced, as rarely have many Survived the ‘resettlement’ enterprise to give us their Testimony. Luckily for History, some did Survive and their Memory is a resource we seek out, and have urged them to speak of, ever since we realised the full horror they were exposed to.
"..We were inside ..train for several days. They closed ..door. ..windows ..already shut ..secured with barbed wire. Towards noon ..train moved. We could notice through ..aperture ..train was travelling in ..direction of Przemysl. ..after that in ..direction of Yaroslav. We knew ..they were exterminating ..Jews ..in ..camp at Belzec. We decided that if ..train turned to ..right in ..direction of Rawaruska ..we would try to burst out of ..train." Ya'akov Gurfein.
1943 September 10th. Germans occupy Rome.
German control exiting Northern Italy and the rolling effect of Allied pressure is set to ensure Italy will be liberated. There is consternation amongst the Allies that the German will try to dig in and defend has been bolstered by such determination, the progress North for US, British and Commonwealth Forces is hampered..
1944 September 10th. Russians capture Prague.
That this was all accomplished at the behest of a Hitlerite Nazi phenomena, completely focused upon Hatred and Intolerance, is a Testament in our History we must come to terms with. That that hatred was for a particular People has guided my words and actions for some twenty years now! My effort is built upon a resolve to add one more voice to the force of condemnation of an event we must choose, Always To Remember, Never To Forget! I arrive at Dublin Airport and there is a sense of confusion! People, needing to adjust to the reality that awaits them, look for signs that point them in all directions. These would-be venturers would soon be transported from one place to another. Some might take but 45 minutes, others would take anything up to 24 hours to make their journey.
The similarities with the past are there! People totally focused on being moved away from here and eagerly awaiting their arrival at their destination, there. This is the divergence of routes, journeys back and forth which deliver People, deposit them at their destination in the expectation that they will return once they have finished what it is they set out to do! I am mindful too that so many People, Jewish People, not known to the World perished in Auschwitz and Birkenau. The World knows it has its Survivors, like Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi and they know too that Anne Frank passed through on her way toward Belsen and certain Death. For all those we know of, there are far too many we know little or nothing of!
"..There is an urge and rage in people to destroy ..kill ..murder. ..until all mankind ..undergoes ..change ..will have to begin all over again." Anne Frank.
The Kazimierz Hotel
I spent the duration of my stay in Cracow at The Kazimierz Hotel in the Kazimierz Jewish Quarter. The irony of this wasn't realised until I arrived and was immediately impressed that I was smack in the middle of what is now a vibrant Jewish Community. I was steps away from The Tempel Synagogue and all the Kazimierz Synagogues were within walking distance.
The Hotel itself was refreshingly warm and welcoming. The Staff friendly and efficient. Whatever my request there was a quick and effective response to oblige. I was tired but I was also keen to see what the local area looked like. It was late! It was dark and I was hungry. I ventured a few doors down the way and found somewhere to eat. I could enthuse all day long about the warmth and generosity of the Polish People. They made my stay a very refreshing one. Thank You!
A Book a Day, or so of suggested reading!
36. Venezia, Shlomo Inside The Gas Chambers.