Memorials versus Modern Jewish Life in Poland

poland-1829199_1920In May I visited Treblinka with a small group of Global Leadership fellows. We arrived at the extermination camp in the evening, the only people there, to silence and swarming mosquitos. 

Treblinka was a gravel mine before the Nazis took it over in 1940. The pits and mounds of the tunnels are still visible, though now covered by grass. As are the train tracks that transported the gravel away, and then the humans towards. The vast field of grass is ringed with trees and interrupted every so often by enormous, right-angle stones, nearly as tall as a person. They’re jagged and imposing, seemingly placed at random along the path. 

Then all at once you turn a corner, the only corner past the trees, and the full scale of the memorial comes into view: 17,000 more stones, standing in clusters, with an eight-meter high monument of flat grey stone at the center. Carved across the top are terrified faces, eyes open, surrounded by other forms left featureless. Above them two hands reach upwards to the sky; a final impression of being buried alive.

In the summer of 2015 I worked full time at a Holocaust Education Centre. I listened to and summarized over 120 hours of recorded witness testimony, gathered from survivors living in Canada. It was my job to find each story’s unique qualities and identify them for possible exhibitions. Polish testimonies were the most horrifying, with the most time dedicated to the camps. I would avoid transcribing them for weeks. It would take me over a year to write about the experience for Lilith’s Spring 2017 issue.

2 comments on “Memorials versus Modern Jewish Life in Poland

  1. Terry on

    Chloe, I’ve noticed that very few stories on this Lilith site elicit comments. This disappoints me. Nonetheless, I appreciated reading your story. Keep up the good work. Our individual and collective histories need to be shared.

  2. Jim Rizoli on

    There are many people that don’t believe Treblinka was a “death camp”. Transit camp yes but not a death camp. This book link I thought covered all the major points and I think it would be beneficial to getting to the whole truth about the camp. You can download the book below for free if you so desire. If you do read it with an open mind like I have this book version of what the camp was makes much more sense. Aren’t we all wanting to get to the TRUTH of the matter?
    You complain that no one posted to this article yet I have and how will it be received?

    Jim Rizoli

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