The Warsaw Ghetto
I entered Warsaw, Poland, and the world was not the same as the studies that I had done over the last few years. I looked around, and nothing I knew was there stood there anymore. The Nazis had torn apart this world, but this was home of the largest Jewish ghetto in Europe – the Warsaw Ghetto.
I remember walking around, and it was like entering an entirely new world, nothing like the photos I studied. I knew geographically where I was, which helped me to understand which part of the ghetto I had entered, and where the ghetto buildings would have been. Being in this world was entirely new to me, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness. I looked around at a beautiful town that once was brimming with life, that would be demolished by the Nazi regime, and would once more rebuild and continue on for another day. This concept to me was baffling, but as I looked around, I could still visually imagine what was there over 70 years ago.
I was reminded of the horrors that had occurred at the Warsaw Ghetto, and I had visited many parts of the ghetto that no longer existed. I had a tour guide, an amazing man filled with extensive knowledge, and he helped give the visualization in a world I had never seen before. In this world I once knew, I could not help but feel a little bit alone and immeasurably overflowing with grief and inner turmoil. I was standing on the ground where Jewish children, men and women, and the elderly took their last breaths for nothing more than hate. I stood there, and I thought about all of those lives, and I remembered all of the diaries I had read about the place. The importance of these documents helped create the world that no longer existed where I was standing, and it helped in those moments remember the victims that could no longer speak.
I remember visiting the Jewish cemetery, a place where I felt inexplicably overwhelmed. I knew of what happened at this cemetery, and how it was a key point for Jewish smuggling. I also knew of the mass graves in the cemetery, and before me was a place that Jews fought for survival that survived the war. It was dark and raining. This weather seemed fitting as I had a deep sadness within me standing in a place that had seen so much grief and destruction.
Standing in a world that hundreds of thousands of people suffered at the hands of hatred, and I was reminded of the great blessings that I have in life every day. The world was not what it once was, but I couldn’t help but try to remember what it once was to incorporate the memory of the victims and the lives they once had.
Remembering the Victims
My time in Warsaw was brief, but I remember a walk where I thought through everything I knew about Warsaw. I thought about the many victims of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the brave fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Warsaw was demolished, and with it, the inhabitants suffered egregious losses on both the Jewish and Polish side. A world that once stood tall had come crumbling down by the Nazi regime.
I was staring through the window of time – a place I had never seen before, but a place I knew quite a lot about. Time rebuilt the city, but the inner wounds could still be felt in the atmosphere. The areas I visited had a significant impact on me as I honored the victims of the Holocaust and remembered the lives they once had. Remembrance was core to my journey through Poland as I visited many different places, but in Warsaw, it became essential for my memory to be a core component of the visit since so much had changed.
My time in Warsaw yielded many new thoughts, renewed pain, and new perspectives. I visited the POLIN museum, which was filled with beautiful Jewish history, and our guide was one of the original people involved with the creation of the museum. The museum brought you flawlessly through time, and it gave a profound look on Jewish life.
Every moment in my journey through Warsaw was about the victims, but seeing this new world rebuilt instilled a bit of sadness within my heart. While the buildings may not still stand, this new world could never shake the deep-rooted pain and terror that had been brought upon its population. This new world would never let us forget the victims of the Holocaust, and the many others who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
All photos used were personally taken by me while I was in Poland. They were catalogued in my project, The Holocaust Blueprint, but I hold no copyrights to the photos as I believe they should be spread widely throughout the world so that we may never forget the victims.