Block 16 in Birkenau

May 6, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Australian students currently in Poland for the March of the Living have visited the former Birkenau concentration camp and madrich Sam Kozlowski has reported on the impact on the MOTL participants.

“It is hard to escape parallels.

At Block 16

At Block 16

In 1944, 1400 Hungarian teenagers were sent to Block 16 – the children’s section of Birkenau. They were sent there for only a very short time, before they were led to one of the Gas Chambers.

In 2016, 160 American and 10 Australian teenagers walked proudly into Block 16. In darkness, they recited some prayers. It was spine-tingling.

Our day in Auschwitz-Birkenau was intense in so many ways. The sheer size of the camps was felt by all – it literally takes hours to walk across and explore. At the symbolic epicentre of Holocaust visual memory, it was fascinating to see the reactions of the students. For many, there was a sense of utter disbelief. Some expressed their distress visually, others internalised it and spent much of the day in silence. Our expression of these emotions cannot

Member of the MOTL Australian contingent at Auschwitz on Yom Hashoah

Member of the MOTL Australian contingent at Auschwitz on Yom Hashoah

be predicted, but in all cases, they were absorbed by the group and accepted. The support that the Australians were showing to the Australians and the Americans, and the Americans were showing to the Australians and Americans, gave the ultimate sign of Jewish continuity. To see our students live the experience of Auschwitz-Birkenau is a snapshot of what it not only means to be Jewish, but what it means to be human.

A particularly special moment for us was listening to Ari’s testimony. He spoke of his family’s journey through Auschwitz.  Ari presented his great-great grandfathers Tefillin. Determined to put them on (the first time in his life he put on Tefillin), but not quite sure how to go about the process, he found willing help,

Two young men, in the midst of a major life-defining day, applying Tefillin  originating in Ari’s past generations in the very country that we stand in right now was unforgettable.

After dinner, we explored the gorgeous Old Town of Krakow, and ended the day on a somewhat sweeter note. There is no greater way to understand Poland today.”

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