Stepping onto the grounds where 1.2 million Jewish people died, Zach Getelman ’13, Deborah Malamud ’13, Adam Gross ’13 and Laurel Wayne ’13 visited Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of the two-week March of the Living program, in which Jewish high schoolers pay remembrance to the Holocaust.
The first week took place in Poland, where 11,000 teens visited cities and concentration camps to gain a better understanding of Holocaust’s impact.
“I’ve witnessed things that no person should ever have to witness,” Wayne said.
The Chelmno camp, described by Getelman as the “toughest thing to see,” is a gravesite to some 150,000 people with only two known survivors. Here Wayne saw on a plaque the names of her great-grandparents, who Wayne had previously believed were killed at Auschwitz.
The nine Holocaust survivors on the trip made the tragedy feel more real, Getelman said. They described what it was like to live in the barracks and be shipped to Auschwitz in cattle cars, Getelman said.
The trip culminated with a silent march from the inner gates of Auschwitz to Birkenau.
The second week, in Israel, focused on the strength and tenacity of the Jewish people. There the group celebrated the holidays of Yom Hazikaron, which remembers fallen soldiers, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. On the march from Jerusalem to the Western Wall, the group sang songs and waved the flags of their home countries.
“I’ve been there three or four times before, but this trip was so different,” Getelman said. “I have a newfound appreciation for the state of Israel and a newfound pride in my Judaism.”