We all know about the history of the Holocaust thought literature, movies, music, and art. Nothing compares to physically being in Poland – a huge grave yard to our Jewish brothers and sisters I would like to share with you one personal experience that touched my Neshama deeply.
On Friday April 20, 3 buses full of Jewish youth drove to the town of Tykocin, out side of Warsaw. I had never heard about this town before, but had learned that the town was established in 1424 and was home to a vibrant and rich Jewish community, buzzing with vitality, energy, and beloved life. Close to 2000 Jewish people lived in this town.
We first entered a beautiful synagogue – the synagogue of Tykocin. It was built in 1642 and possesses some of the most magnificent and astounding monuments of Jewish culture
We all started to dance and sing Hora and Havah Nagilah …it was a spontaneous expression of the simple joy of being alive and surrounded by those you love and to who you are emotionally connected. It was truly the calm before the storm, as we were all just celebrating our heritage and having a good time, nobody realized the horrific picture that was going to be painted in front of us in a mere matter of minutes.
We got back to the buses and drove about 5-8 minutes and arrived to the Lopuchowo forest. The sun was shining iridescently bright. As we walked to the woods, I noticed the thin figures of the tall trees. For a split second, I heard the lively symphonies coming from the birds among us… it truly appeared to be beautiful and tranquil place, undisturbed by any unnatural sights or sounds. That’s when we learned what had happened in this very place in the August of 1941. The entire population of Tykochin was loaded into trucks and driven to this forest.
One woman attempted to make a run for it while cradling her infant in her arms. The Gestapo pursued her, caught her, and then proceeded to make her witness her baby being smashed to death on the trunk of the tree before fatally shooting her in front of the other entire town’s people. After that, no one dared try to escape. At that moment I could feel every base maternal instinct in my body connecting me to this woman who was simply trying to protect her child. Can we possibly even fathom what was going on in this poor woman’s head?
When they reached the center of the forest, the Gestapo separated the townspeople into three different groups of men, women, and children to be shot. An entire community-over 2,000 people- were massacred in the span of three days.
The following week we were dancing in the streets on Ben Yehoda in Jerusalem. We were celebrating Yom Hzamout, the Israeli Independence Day with close to 6000 people who came from all over the world to celebrate the existence of the state of Israel. For me this whole mission culminated to the beauty and energy of Israel.
This mission was to build a bond to the Jewish youth by first hand letting them experience all of the scenery, culture, food, and music that only Israel has to offer. The goal of the March of the Living is for these young people to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and to lead the Jewish people into the future vowing Never Again. Never again.
Director ,Holocaust Education and Israeli Programs