In the wee hours of the morning, my grandson Gilad and his classmates embarked on their emotional eight day trip to Poland to tour the concentrations camps and visit the cities and ghettos where Jews lived and were slaughtered by the Nazis.
The boys have been well prepared. Last year in their Shoah [Holocaust] studies they visited Yad Vashem, met survivors, and learned all about the atrocities before and during World War 11.
Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Yad Vashem is located on the western slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem and adjacent to the Jerusalem Forest.. The memorial consists of a 180-dunam (18.0 ha; 44.5-acre) complex containing the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites such as the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance.
Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, a research institute with archives, a library, a publishing house, and an educational center.
Once in Poland, the boys, protected by Israeli security agents, have been instructed to be proud Jews. They were told to wear their kippot with pride and those who keep their tzitzit out should continue to do so.
Their first stop will be Treblinka. [Treblinka was an extermination camp, built by the Nazis, located near the village of Treblinka north-east of Warsaw in what is now the Masovian Voivodeship. The camp operated between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 as part of Operation Reinhard, the most deadly phase of the Final Solution.
Shabbat will be spent in Lodz, which is the third-largest city in Poland. Located in the central part of the country, Prior to World War II Lodz’s Jewish community numbered around 233,000 and accounted for one-third of the city’s total population.
It was easy to distinguish between non-Jew and Jew because on November 16, 1939 the Nazis had ordered Jews to wear an armband on the right arm. The armband was the precursor to the yellow Star of David badge which was soon to follow on December 12, 1939.
The community was entirely wiped out in the Shoah. By the end of the war, the city and its environs had lost approximately 420,000 of its pre-war inhabitants, including approximately 300,000 Polish Jews 120,000 other Poles.
Their last stop will be in Auschwitz. Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of German Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by nazi Germany during World War 11. It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz 111-Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps.
My great-grandparents and my husband’s mother’s parents and other family members on both sides of our family were murdered during pogroms between WW1 and WW2. Their crime…they were Jews.
Gilad and our older grandson Yoni, who visited the camps about 6 years ago, are avenging their murder. Both boys are learned in Torah and they are telling the Nazis we won, you lost. We live in the Land of Israel.
At each camp, the Kaddish memorial prayer will be said and the names of slaughtered remembered.
A cousin of mine found the names of her family members murdered in the Shoah through a search through the archives of Yad Vashem. Gilad will have their names remembered in Kaddish and Psalms.
Returning to Israel, their emotional trips ends at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. The boys will pray, sing, dance and understand the privilege they have living in our Jewish homeland.
Am Yisrael Chai! The People of Israel Live!