Masconomet Regional High School
The Holocaust was the darkest time in modern history. Over six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators through unimaginably inhumane means as part of the Final Solution. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity of a lifetime to see firsthand where the Nazis carried out these despicable acts. It is important to learn about the Holocaust because its lessons show us what can happen when evil takes over society, and just how far people will go to carry out their intentions. Going to Germany and Poland and becoming a Holocaust Legacy Fellow was challenging and emotional, but it was also the most meaningful experience of my life. Never before have I felt such a purpose and drive to fulfill this mission that is not only important for me personally, but for our community and beyond. In a generation where antisemitism has once again begun to spread around the world, we must do our part in containing and eliminating it.
August 9, 2019 is a date I will remember for the rest of my life – the first time I stepped foot in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. I walked in and read the gate to Auschwitz 1, “Work Will Set You Free” – history’s most infamous lie. Before coming to Auschwitz, I knew that my rush of emotions would come to me at some point that day. It could have been after seeing the barracks, the recovered belongings of so many innocent victims or hearing the testimonies of survivors in videos. What ultimately hit me the hardest was something I didn’t even know existed, sitting in Block 27: The Auschwitz Book of Names. Before my eyes were thousands of oversized pages filled top to bottom with the names of 4.2 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Seeing those names, some that shared my own, made me feel a rush of emotions ranging from sadness, to anger, to confusion. This is my connection to the Holocaust, and while I may not be related to most of the people on these pages, I am still responsible for carrying on their stories. Each name was a life that was torn from the pages of history and printed onto The Auschwitz Book of Names, taken from their families and their potential to change the world.
As I stood on the grounds of Treblinka, my feet walked over the dirt littered with ashes of those murdered over 70 years ago. As I walked through the vast field full of stones commemorating the victims, I thought to myself, “Every stone here probably represents a person.” To my disbelief, our tour guide Sara told us that each stone did not just represent a person, but an entire community. As part of my responsibility as a Holocaust Legacy Fellow, I must ensure that no victim is forgotten whether it be a person, a family, or a country’s entire Jewish population. These camps where so many were brutally murdered now serve as memorials and a reminder that this is what happens when humanity hits its lowest point, somewhere we can not allow current the to reach.
Seeing the places where these atrocities happened first hand is only one step in my lifelong commitment to being a Holocaust Legacy Fellow. You cannot tell me the Holocaust never happened after I stood in three death camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, and Majdanek. You can not tell me that the Jews were just another casualty of war as I stood over a mass grave of 800 Jewish children at the small town of Zbylitowska Góra, or stared helplessly into the mound of ashes of 18,400 Jews at Majdanek. The Holocaust was the Nazi’s answer to the “Jewish Question” through persecution and genocide, murdering over six million Jews and leaving the world scarred with darkness. One thing is for sure, however, the Nazis did not prevail. If they had, I would not be standing here today. If they had, then my great-grandfather would not have escaped the mass execution of Jews in his town in Ukraine. If they had, then the world would not have seen Jews leading innovation to earn 20% of Nobel prizes despite making up only 0.2% of the world’s population. We have suffered greatly throughout history, but continuously we prove to the world that we deserve to be here and our potential is limitless. We have all heard the phrase, “we can not let history repeat itself” and upon returning from Germany and Poland, I have never thought it to be more important. Six million innocent Jews taken from the world, robbed of their futures. Six million – an unfathomable number.
The antisemitism that preceded the Holocaust began with words and ideas. The dangerous ideology of the Nazis later turned into decisions made by those elected into power and ultimately actions that took the lives of millions. The final solution was not drafted overnight; it was masterminded by humanity’s darkest souls through years of planning and propaganda. Ultimately, it only took Nazi officials 83 minutes at the Wannsee Conference to decide to follow through with the Final Solution. The lessons I have taken from this trip will carry on with me for the rest of my life and I will use them to pass on what I have learned as I educate other to preserve and perpetuate the memories and lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.