By Krzysztof Sadomski

Before we travelled to Auschwitz, we were warned that we should not expect anything—that visiting such a horrifying place can cause different emotions in different people and therefore we should not judge others, but instead focus on our own reactions. A few days before coming to Poland, we had visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. There, I had found myself between massive, grey concrete blocks and I had lost eye contact with the other fellows and lost my connection with the city. And just after crossing the infamous gates of Auschwitz, I found myself stuck in a grey, concrete labyrinth of my own thoughts.

This wasn’t the first time I had visited a Nazi concentration and killing camp. During high school, my class travelled to Majdanek, a concentration camp near Lublin. I am not sure we were mature enough to comprehend the place’s emotional intensity. But I am also not sure there is any age at which a person can be fully mentally prepared to deal with genocide on such an indescribable scale.

The mausoleum at Majdanek, near Lublin. (Roland Geider/Wikimedia Commons)

The mausoleum at Majdanek, near Lublin. (Roland Geider/Wikimedia Commons)

That was seven years ago, and I realized recently that I don’t remember much of the visit. But there is one moment that is crystal clear. After we saw the concentration camp, we visited a nearby mausoleum for victims of the Holocaust. Our class circled a big stone monument and stood a few moments in silence. Suddenly, an older Jewish man who had been fervently praying next to the memorial started to sing loudly. I couldn’t understand a word, but his soaring melody and the wind that rose and made the mourning flames dance stayed in my mind.

I am not sure what I will remember from this trip to Auschwitz. I have quite a few whirling thoughts, which I’m not even trying put into words. In the dark, furious internal ocean of emotions I lost control of my keel. Maybe in time words and more rational reflection will come.




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