Majdanek Death Camp: “We lit a Yizkor candle and recited the El Maleh Rachamim prayer.”
A large group departed from Memphis International Airport Sunday, traveling to Poland to begin their journey from Warsaw to Israel. The JCP/MJCC-sponsored trip will connect the travelers to their Jewish history, taking them to important sites from the recent past. Here, our director of community impact, Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, shares her thoughts from the group’s tour of Majdanek death camp.
Day 2- Majdanek
I’ve always thought that the many Survivors who were unable to speak about their experiences were silent because of the trauma of what they went through. While I am sure this may be a factor for many, after today, I understand their silence in another way as well. If you are not an Elie Wiesel or another gifted writer, how do you find the words for what happened? Death camp, gas chambers, crematoria. These words barely scratch the surface of conveying what went on. If I, a mere visitor to Majdanek, cannot adequately express the horrors of what we saw today, how could someone who actually experienced it?
Majdanek is a death camp on the outskirts of Lublin. Of all the death camps, it is the best preserved since the Nazis didn’t have time to destroy the evidence before Soviet troops arrived. We saw the actual gas chambers and crematorium. Not a replica. Not a reconstruction. Not a photograph.
We saw the ditches where 18,000 Jews were machine-gunned to death in one day. We saw real Jewish ashes with bone fragments. Are there words for this?
We did what Jews all over the world do when encountering death. We lit a Yizkor (memorial) candle and recited the El Maleh Rachamim prayer.
The camp was built on farmland in the city. Just outside the perimeter fence of Majdanek are residential homes. We struggled with the question of how the Poles who lived, literally, next door, were able to go on with their daily lives knowing what went on. And then we faced an awful truth- we knew about Rawanda and Darfur and other global atrocities. We know about Syria. And what do we do? We go on with our lives.