Block 19, C Lager, Auschwitz II – Birkenau – November 8th 2018
Sitting on moss and rubble and dirt with rusty tins of old memorial candles and an eerie silence loud in its lie, another horrific deception in this hell that greeted its new arrivals with the agonizing myth of hope to prevent panic, where so many went straight to horrific death; old men, women, mothers and grandmothers and children whose innocent faces are captured on those last ever photos taken as they got off the trains. Others came to these barracks where I sit now crammed into wooden bunks, sharing way too few open latrines where the human stench mingled with the smell of fear, despair and suffocating ash, where the sky was always red. Irene and her sisters were saved from this hallowed, hell-holed ground by a miracle, by kindness, by who-knows-what in their escape from 19 to 17, spared by moments from gas and fire – a fate emerging from a chimney. And now I see a small herd of small deer scuttling through these ruins with a redeeming grace for an unredeemable past. The brick chimneys still stand in these barracks attached to furnaces that did not provide enough heat in those bleak, starved winters, while other chimneys efficiently pumped human ashes into the heavens. A strong sun reflects in the rubble and on the hundreds of visitors scattered all over the camp mocked into insignificance by how many prisoners living and dead passed through this evil machine. Polish school children, Israelis whose existential story depends on this and the blue and white flags drape around the narratives not quite fitting; the Zen Peacemakers sitting circled on the platform by the tracks, different faiths meditating for the peace of these souls and an end to our endless capacity for violence, for dehumanization.
So many bricks. So many untold stories, under the score of sweet bird song, nature’s psalm for the agony of this place.
Part of me cannot leave, needing somehow to stay here forever and another pulls me to get away, to never come back, to wash death away from my body, from my heart.
I must go and before I do, I try to imagine the beautiful young woman that I knew as a loving old and still beautiful woman, in this exact place where her courage and valor and hope and love smothered her fear and saved her from hell.
May my precious moments of presence here honor those who lived and died and suffered in this makom, this place, this space with its evil face. May their souls, housed in bodies that were so tortured, be at peace in an eternal embrace beyond place.