Auschwitz

Most of us spent the morning at Auschwitz and Birkenau.  (While the rest of the group went to Auschwitz, Dr. E., Don, and Betty met with the grandparents of a young woman who is in a doctoral program with Dr. E’s oldest daughter.  All of their children and grandchildren live in the U.S., and Dr. E. was able to bring some gifts to them from their son’s family.  They live in Oświęcim, the Polish town in which the Auschwitz camp is located.)  Auschwitz was originally a Polish army barracks, which was taken over by the Nazi occupiers.  After they expanded the camp, it held about 10,000 prisoners, and was the site of the Nazi experiments to use cyanide to -kill large numbers of people.  It is estimated that about 60,000 people were killed there in its gas chambers, starvation cells, firing squads, and from starvation / slave labor.  When the Nazis decided to make Auschwitz the site of the “final solution of the Jewish problem”, they added a larger camp in Birkenau, five kilometers away, which held 125,000 prisoners, and was the site of what is currently estimated as 1.3 million people murdered in gas chambers and other means of extermination.  It was also a place where “medical experiments”, forced labor, and horrible conditions framed everyday life for prisoners.  Most of those who died were Jews, although Poles and gypsies also died in large numbers, as did significant numbers of soldiers, homosexuals, and others that were identified as undesirable.  We also struggled to understand not just the experience of the victims, but of the perpetrators of these horrors, which is perhaps even harder to come to grips with.

Needless to say, it was a lot to take in and understand as we learned details of the Holocaust.  Having visited the Anne Frank museum on our way here framed the experience with a very personal story.  This is a day that will take a long time to process.  Over a late lunch and again this evening we began to debrief from our experience.  Students voiced frustration of not being able to do anything to change what is now a historic event, and Don helped us see how genocide and religious killings are still rampant today.  We talked about recent (Rwanda) and current (Syria) events that raise questions of justice and the politics of facing such events.  Please pray for us as we process all of this in the coming days.

Our day ended with a worship service at a small church in Sosnowiec, led by Daniel, the pastor whose home we worked at yesterday.  Tom gave a brief devotional, and we enjoyed singing songs in English while our brothers and sisters sang in Polish.  The church had less than 10 members when Daniel took over two years ago, and now has about 70 people attending on Sundays, completely filling its simple sanctuary.

Dr. E. and Dr. H

Comments

  1. Wow ! I cannot even process how going there would affect me ? I would of loved to have been there for this part of your trip and experience the many emotions ! Will pray for all of you as you process these days of much horror . What a wonderful gift you gave the family you helped , nothing like they've ever expected I'm sure !! Lifting you all in prayer today

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