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MAY 19, 2011

Student reaction to visiting Chelmno

The Museum helped support the Shalhevet High School Poland/Israel trip and facilitated several pre-departure educational meetings for the students at the Museum. This is one student’s reaction to his or her experience visiting Chelmno:


I don't know what to say right now. This is not right to intellectualize. How does someone dare intellectualize and make sense of something like this. I just saw three horrifying pits that take more than 5 minutes to walk up and down each. Three darn pits where hundreds of thousands of people were buried after being stuffed in a bus and being fed the carbon monoxide coming out of the exhaust pipe. How is one to respond to something like this? There are bones on the ground everywhere in one area. You see, the pits were not large enough for all the bodies. So the Nazis took to it to burn the bodies in the end and then bury their ashes in the pits to make room in these gargantuan pits. So now, picking up a handful of dirt, one finds countless bones. How is someone to react when finding several pieces of a 3 month old baby's skull on the ground? But why is that someone else? Why is it that I was not chosen to go through the Holocaust? How am I supposed to react to the fact that thousands of families were murdered here, hundreds of entire villages liquidated, but not mine? I am confused with emotions. Hopelessness, rage, sadness, grief, and guilt. Today was one of the most, if not the most, powerful day of my life. We proceeded to bury the shattered human bones we found on the floor. We buried them for their first time. We gave them the respect they so deserved. We were the first ones to recognize these souls that were lost at the hand of these vehemous animals. It was the first funeral I ever attended. It was beautiful, meaningful. The entire class came together at that time. The majority of people broke down at once. We were one, united, living group of Jewish people paying respect and honoring the murdered while wearing Israeli flags around our bodies. It was moving. But no vocabulary can accurately capture what we saw today. It's impossible. All I know is that it changed us, and that what I saw today will have an impact on me for the rest of my life.


Best from Warsaw, Poland,