Zbylitowska Góra, the Buczyna forest – site of the largest mass grave in present-day Poland. The Nazis would murder thousands of innocent people here with no regards for life. Jews from the Tarnów Ghetto were rounded up and brought to the woods, and they were executed in a hail of bullets. Polish Christians also met their fate at the hands of a cruel regime and occupation – no man or woman was safe from Nazi cruelty.
Walking to the opening of the woods seemed like any other nature site in Poland, but a few steps forward and the atmosphere around you changes. A clearing comes into sight. Walking forward you see a towering monument constructed by the soviets, and around it fenced in areas with plaques memorializing the victims of the Nazi regime. A place filled with beauty turned into a representation of the searing hatred that the Nazis expounded upon its victims. Walking around the site has an eerie feeling of sadness, and you cannot help but feel hopelessness as you stand before the mass graves of thousands of innocent people.
Standing before these mass graves so many questions fill your mind. A mass grave is marked for children, and this mass grave would break down any person. Here you are standing where people who pleaded for their lives were struck down for no reason but hatred. Realizing over one million children were killed during the Holocaust, it becomes poignant standing at just one location of many where a child saw their last moments. You can’t help but wonder what that child’s dreams were, and what great things they could have achieved had the Nazis had not cut their lives short.
Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland was brutal and saw the construction of death camps that would see to the deaths of millions. Blood spread throughout the fields of Poland by the Nazis scars the land. The massacre in the Buczyna forest was just one of many different massacres that occurred across German-occupied Poland.
Lessons to be Learned
Facing these massacre sites across Europe can be one of the hardest parts of any trip for the Holocaust. Many people visit Auschwitz I and II-Birkenau, but visiting these massacre sites is important to understanding the state of German-occupied Poland. The Nazis had no issue with murdering innocent people because they did not meet their criteria of a perfect person.
The de-humanizing nature of propaganda from the period would have only made it easier for any German to take a life as they created the belief that Jews were a scourge to society. They had denigrated humanity by placing the Aryans above anyone else, and with this ideology they would slaughter any and all who dared to step in their path or be different. The Nazis would eliminate intellectuals across Europe to maintain their control, and this barbaric treatment of humanity is what made the Nazi regime feared across Europe.
When I visited this site in the Buczyna forest, I could not help but be encompassed in a petrifying sadness. It was important to me that I was there and that I was able to see the cruelty of the Nazi regime, and I believe it is important for everyone to see these sites because the concentration and extermination camps are just one part of the Holocaust. I found this site to be particularly important because it represented the suffering of all people under Nazi-occupation, and it serves as a reminder of why it is so important that we work towards harmony and compassion for the future.
The world is seeing an increase in anti-Semitic events, and in these times, I believe it is important to teach and learn about the Holocaust. We use the phrase “Never Again,” which represents our strength and refusal to ever let what happened in the Holocaust happen again. It is important that we continue to work to teach, but that we also work to show humanity that we are all one people interconnected by one commonality – we are all humans. We all have our own lives, and we each have aspirations and hopes for the future. Visiting these sites across Europe helps remind us of just how important life is and how important it is that we never forget about the victims of the Holocaust. It is important that we never forget about the atrocities and those who committed them to prevent these atrocities from ever happening again.
All photos used were personally taken by me while I was in Poland. They were cataloged 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.