When I think of Poland, a few things flow into my consciousness. My paternal grandparents emanated from Poland. Thankfully, they arrived in the U.S. significantly before WWII, so our family doesn’t have a personal Holocaust legacy.
I also think back to the 12th grade, when I participated in the March of the Living and visited Poland as well as various concentration camps. I may have been too young to truly grasp the magnitude of the atrocities but I vividly see today, in my heart’s mind, the pain and anguish that was. I’m repulsed by anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers that abound. I saw those camps with my own innocent eyes.
Finally, Poland makes me think of Vienna. My wife hails from Vienna, Austria, having lived there until the age of fifteen. Due to members of her family living there, I’ve visited Vienna over a dozen times. Vienna is a complex place. Jews reside and even thrive there, yet the negative history looms large. It’s hard to walk the streets of Vienna and feel like you belong. I always feel myself looking over my shoulder.
We should never get too comfortable in the Diaspora. Jewish history tends to repeat itself.