Yesterday, I was writing a letter to all of my friends and family, telling them everything we did and saw while we were in Poland.  I wrote a lot, detailing each day, wanting them all to get a glimpse of what it was like to be there.

Finally, the time came when I had to write about our trip to Auschwitz.  What could I say that would truly express what it was like to walk on that ground… to see the barbed wire fences… to imagine all that had taken place there?  I started to discuss the basic things we did while we were there, in a somewhat impersonal way.  I talked about walking through the barracks, which had been converted into exhibits.  I talked about seeing the piles upon piles of human hair, or the clothes of young children. 

As I wrote, I started to think about what it was like to be there, to see my peers, my friends, crying as we walked through those exhibits.  I’m normally a fairly reserved person, and I remember struggling not to cry while we were walking through those exhibits.  I had been fighting to not show on my face what I was feeling so deeply within my heart.  I was feeling a complete, intense, and powerful sorrow, and it slowly filled me up and sunk its claws into my throat and my gut.  As I wrote, I remembered this.  And I remembered when I finally let down that barrier at Auschwitz.  We walked into the room with the mountains of shoes… so many shoes… and I couldn’t hold it in any longer.  I gasped, and that gasp turned into a quiet sob.  It was so hard to think about it, to take it all in. 

 I had to stop writing the letter to my family and friends.  I broke down into an uncontrollable sob.  It was as if everything I had held in since being there, within the confines of Auschwitz, suddenly broke loose within me.  I finally brought myself to fully mourn for those who lost their lives in the endless string of atrocities that occurred within Auschwitz. 

It is my hope that I will always remember what we saw and learned there.  I hope that through our mourning and sorrow for the horrific events of the past, we will be able to face tomorrow with a stronger resolve.  A resolve for change.

~Janelle Gross

Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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