We arrived in Auschwitz on Thursday, January 30, 2014. My seminary was taking us to see where the prisoners were kept. When we got there, I stepped off the bus in complete and total silence. I was in the back, and when we got to the gate I hesitated and started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t bring myself to enter Auschwitz. My madricha, Aviva, turned around, looked at me and said, “Mimi don’t be afraid, because at the end of the day you’re going to get to walk out.” Those are words that I will never forget.
The first thing I did when I got to Auschwitz was take these two photos. In the top one I was wearing many, many layers, so many in fact that the cold was pretty bearable. In the bottom one I stripped down to just two layers. I sat on the tracks like that for about 5 minutes and by the time I stood up again my entire body was numb from the cold.
I did this because I thought it would help me understand. It didn’t. What it did do, however, was make me realize that every person who survived is a miracle. The fact that people got out alive is a miracle. That they could go on and have normal lives, raise healthy children and grandchildren is a miracle. That I get to see my Bubby on a weekly basis is a blessing, and one I will never take for granted again.
We stopped at one of the crematoria and we sat there in silence, mourning all the lives that were lost. I took that silence as a time to talk to my ancestors. The ones that didn’t make it through like my Bubby did. I told them who I am, where I am from, that I was a student studying in Jerusalem, and that I intend to produce many, many more generations of Jewish children to carry on the legacy. We walked around Auschwitz for about three hours total, and at the end of the whole thing I got to walk out alive.