Photo Credit: courtesy

I went to Auschwitz because my oldest daughter told me that she needed me to go with her.

I went to support her and ultimately she supported me…or at best, we supported each other. I learned that human beings can break. I don’t think I ever broke before Poland. Or at least I never realized the depth of what it means.
Breaking is when you stop and you say, I’m done. I can’t take anymore. You close down and if God grants you your greatest desire at that moment, you’ll never feel again, never even walk again. You just want it all to end. The pain, even if it means the joy stops too. Anything to stop the end of hope, the horror, the pain.
I broke in a few places in Auschwitz…when I begged them to let me go and leave the group. I would go to the airport and wait from them and all I wanted was for them to guard my daughter. But they wouldn’t let me go.
I broke the first time in Auschwitz when I stared at the rubble of the crematoria and thought of my great-grandmother dying in that very spot. I broke when I took out a picture of the Western Wall and slipped it into the mangled metal and realized that I would leave the picture there.
I broke when I looked around me at the grass growing and the gentle summer wind blowing in an almost cloudless sky. And I broke when I heard our Saba Moshe whisper, “it wasn’t like this. If there had been grass, we would have eaten it. It was so cold.”
I broke in Chelmno when I stood by the grave of a 3-day-old baby boy’s grave and I broke for the last time in Jedbawne when I heard about how the Polish neighbors had herded the Jews into the synagogue and set it afire. July 10, 1941. I still remember the date.
They call it a pogrom, but it was a massacre. The Russians had fled; the Nazis were on the march. But on that day in Jedwabne, there were only the Jews and the Poles. And the Poles murdered the Jews. After the war, they put up a sign “To the 1,500 Poles murdered by the Hitlerites”. A lie. One of many.
Sixty years later, a year before I was there, they finally agreed to change the sign. “To the 1,500 Jews who were murdered.” And in 2002, I hear about the memorial ceremony they had had in 2001, when the President came and apologized for the massacre. Still, the Poles who live there deny what their parents did.
At the ceremony, from one house, a stereo began blasting music loud enough to disrupt the ceremony. Embarrassed, the president sent the head of the police to shut the music down.
And when he returned and they started the ceremony again, the town’s church bells started ringing…and ringing…and ringing.
I heard someone who had been at the ceremony describe this and I broke again. Please, I begged them, let me go to the airport. I need to go home. I need air. I want to leave.
But I couldn’t and so I went to Treblinka and watched the wind blow there too. Today, I watched Ben Shapiro and Elon Musk walk in Auschwitz and my heart hurt again.
This time I did not think of the child buried in Chelmno but of our child, perhaps buried in Gaza. I thought of Kfir who was born free in our land, and still hatred has taken him from us.
I thought of the lies told by the South Africans in the International Court of Justice and I thought of the lies told in Jedwabne.
I’m broken. We are all broken. But not really.
You see what isn’t broken are our sons and daughters. They are dancing. Singing. They hold their guns with pride because they are fighting the Nazis as we never could in Auschwitz. They are chasing those who massacred our people and they are catching them. Every day brings word of more of these barbarians falling, these cowards running.
What we didn’t have in Jedwabne was an army and weapons and planes and tanks. In Jedwabne, they murdered almost all of the Jews. No one stood up to stop them…

And here, here we stopped them, we chased them out of our land and followed right into theirs. And today, even when we break…we know that it’s different. No one was punished for what was done in Auschwitz or in Jedwabne. Justice for most of the Nazis put on trial was slow and often a farce.

True justice is happening now in Gaza. And all the innocent have to do to avoid being hurt – is get out of the way, trust that unlike Hamas and the Nazis, our only intent is to flatten Hamas.
Biden and others say it isn’t possible. But our determination was forged in the fire and hell of Auschwitz. Just watch us.
And with that thought, I am healed. I am not broken because this time, we took our future; now we fight back. And we will win this fight. Hamas will die. And what and who the Palestinians choose to lead them next will determine their future. It won’t be Hamas.
{Reposted from the author’s blog}

Previous articleSatmar Delegation Armed with Shabbat Goods Visits Soldiers Up North
Next articleRussia Entering the War Zone in Southern Syria, Impacting IAF Maneuverability
Paula R. Stern is the co-founder of Retraining4Israel (, a new organization working to help olim make aliyah successful. Paula made aliyah over 30 years ago with her husband and their three children. She lives in Maale Adumim and is often referred to as “A Soldier’s Mother”. She is now a happy wife, mother of five (including two sabras), and grandmother, happily sharing her voice and opinions with others. She is also a senior tech writer and lead training instructor at WritePoint Ltd. ( Please visit her new website: