My family from my fathers side is of Jewish descent. 53 of them did not come back from the concentration camps in the second world war.
In 2002 a group of survivors of the holocaust, family members and others participated in a memorial trip organized by the Dutch Auschwitz Committee to Poland.
This was an impressive trip, not only because of the visits to the camps, but mostly because of some extraordinary people on the trip and the typical Jewish way of dealing with grief. After an emotional memorial, we would get back into the bus, start talking, joking and passing around sweets. “Life must go on” is a motto that always seems to come back.
Especially for the survivors of the holocaust, it is very strenuous to go back to this place of dark memories. But is is their stories and mentality that make these grey places come alive.
Lenie Boeken is one of those extraordinary people. She was only 17 and very spoiled (she says) when she ended up in Autschwitz, got experimented on by the infamous Dr. Mengele. She barely survived the war as the only person in her family, only to find out that her former fiance was the one who had told the Germans of their hiding place….
What struck me is the (ironic) humor that seems to be a common trait of the survivors I met and also the ability to see the relativity of everything. Is that what made them survive? Or was it just luck?
Three questions stay with me after this trip:
- How can people do these horrible things to other human beings?
- How can you survive these atrocities?
- How can we make sure this never happens again?
Mountains of glasses and shoes, human hair, and other belongings remind us of the enormity of the atrocities committed by the Nazis.
It is probably not fair to mention only the concentrations camps on this page on Poland, but this was most of the trip. We also visited the old city of Krakow,
which is beautiful, and where I might go back some day, to discover the other side of this country.