A few months ago, my mom reached out to me and asked if I’d like to join her on a trip to Poland to visit the site of the concentration camps and then end our travels in Israel.
I immediately said yes as this is a meaningful trip I’ve thought about going on and felt like it would be even more meaningful to experience this with my mother.
I feel like I’m officially middle-aged as I’m traveling with her local synagogue group.
How do I feel about going? I am petrified. I can’t even sit through a Holocaust movie. It is too painful for me to watch. Some Holocaust-related books I can get through, and others I can’t bear to finish.
When I think of Poland what comes to mind first is my maternal grandfather whose immediate family came from Poland and emigrated to Cuba before the war. The rest of his family who remained perished in the Holocaust.
My grandfather never really spoke about this but my trip to Poland feels like a heritage trip.
I also feel that as a Jew, it is my responsibility to make this trip and witness first hand what our ancestors endured. We are also living in an age when the last of the survivors remain and it would be an honor to hear their testimony first hand.
What are my fears regarding this trip? I fear that the pain of standing on the site of a concentration camp may be too much for me to bear. I fear having nightmares and I fear coming face to face with the reality of the Holocaust.
To put things in perspective, on occasion if I am stuck in a crowded space with a lot of people with barely any room to move, I’m reminded of the Jews who were packed in cattle cars for days on end. I give thanks to G-d for my freedom. When I travel for an extended period of time and crave a shower and comfortable bed, I find it incomprehensible that they went years on end without any comforts. I have much to be thankful for indeed.
Given all of this, I want to face my fears, and look forward to first-hand education and more importantly to pay tribute to my ancestors and all those who suffered and perished.
If any of you have traveled to Poland on this type of trip and have any advice to impart, I welcome it.
Stay tuned for my post-Poland reflections.