May 16-19, 2019
Under the experienced leadership of Werner, Regula and Hannah Woiwode we – 17 participants in all – visited the concentration camp Auschwitz (base camp Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau) May 16-19, 2019. That is the place where over one million Jews (of a total of more than 6 million) were brutally murdered during World War II.
Most people have probably heard of Auschwitz, the millions of victims and the Holocaust. But knowing it is one thing, and spending time at this place is something which changes one forever! This is not least of all because the camp’s (Birkenau) dimensions seem nearly endless. In Auschwitz-Birkenau there were up to 90,000 death candidates at a time. Some spent some time there as forced laborers, others – elderly, mothers and children – were gassed immediately after their arrival. Their ashes cover a portion of the grounds. Once again one asks, „Why did God allow this?“ On the first day we spent hours on the silently screaming grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Each one of us was probably trying to make sense of the impressions and thoughts, now and then sending some words to the Creator.
The exhibits in the museum, made from the base camp buildings in Auschwitz I, were also impressive. This included countless documents expressing the thoroughness of German bureaucracy’s „administration of terror“. Everything was recorded. For example, there was a special form for the number and name of each dead person, with entries regarding the amount of „artificial tooth parts“ (minutely separated according to precious alloys and gold, left and right). The history of the Jewish deportations from Nazi-conquered countries was also impressive. Many times we stood silently in front of numerous individual and family photographs of the victims, from past safe days, but especially in front of pictures of happy, carefree children. Not far from the Birkenau external ramp we visited the Israeli artist Rick Wienecke’s „Fountain of Tears“. He passionately presented us his emotions and thoughts on the large memorial wall for the 6 million who died during the Holocaust. On this wall, life-sized Jewish persons interact in various ways with the larger, crucified Jesus who is „poured into” a wall. The artist explained that this is „a dialogue of suffering between Holocaust and crucifixion“ (www.castingseeds.com).
On Sunday our trip concluded with a visit to Krakow and its Jewish quarter, respectively ghetto. This was enriched by the interesting explanations of our local guide.