These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

2012 Poland Trip: A Journal Entry from January 16, 2012

Posted on April 21, 2012 by Laura H.

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Today we went to Majdanek. I walked around the camp thinking a lot about why I came back to Poland. I had a hard time focusing on what was around me and found myself intellectualizing, rather than feeling things. I pictured much of the imagery from Survival in Auschwitz to try to visualize camp life. This gave me a starting point, but was in contrast to the emotions I had at other points during the day. At the Warsaw cemetery, I felt myself relating to the diversity of Jewish life and culture. At the Lublin cemetery, I was connected to the value of Torah study and to questions of the best way to educate the community. At the Talmid Chacham Yeshiva in Lublin, I felt invested in continuing the legacy of learning. And at Majdanek, I hardly felt anything. I could not fathom the immense atrocity. Nor could I begin to understand how anyone could be a cog in this killing machine. Instead of feeling, I selfishly thought about why I came back to Poland. I could think of no reason that connected to the camps.

I came to start to understand what was lost, not how it was lost. To understand elements of our faith, not fate. Being in Majdanek did not shake me, or even feel numbing. It felt removed from my understanding, both in my head and in my heart. Maybe I removed myself because I don’t know how to feel the terror of what occurred there. Or maybe I removed myself purposefully because I would rather focus on the formation of our existence than something that happened to us.

Pardes trips to Poland are run in partnership with Heritage Seminars. The Claims Conference has provided trip scholarships for qualifying Pardes participants, as well as subsidies for program components directed at Jewish educators.