Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Arbeit Macht Frei--Danielle Sargent

March 11, 2013


Today we visited Auschwitz I. After speaking with the others in my group, I realized that I had a different approach going into the camp. I was not nervous or scared, nor excited or interested. I was indifferent. I knew what we had came to Poland to learn, and yet I do not think I had processed mentally the journey I was about to take. I have been surrounded by so much death in my life from a young age, and I do not think that I am affected the same way by it as most people. When it comes to death, I am very reflective. I feel the need to connect to the physical existence of those that have passed. I wanted to be able to stand in the same spot that one of the prisoners once stood. I wanted to be able o stand in the same place that one of the prisoners had died. For me, this is what creates the connection between the past and the present. I was experiencing history.
This connection is important to understand the Holocaust. Without understanding, there can be no respect for the living or the dead. During the Holocaust, connections between the prisoners were very important. This is how they were able to know what day it was, get more food, pray, and gain a type of temporary relief in communication throughout this whole process. For some lucky ones, it was a way to fall in love. In the case of Mala Zimetbaum and Edward “Edek” Galinski, they fell in love in the camp and formulated an escape which was successful. Unfortunately for them, they were recognized as escapees in a nearby town and were taken back to Auschwitz and were both executed. However, their story became a “symbol of spiritual resistance and an attempt to preserve the last shreds of humanity. Their romantic escape inspired others and was a living proof that even in the shadow of death rue love could flourish” (Galek, 37).

Their connections remind me of the connection that all people have with God. Whether people believe or not, we are all God’s children, and his love exists despite anything that may be happening in the world. Many have asked, “Where was God when the Holocaust was occurring?” in which I do not have an exact answer. But I ask you to think about the fact that many people were able to survive the camps. Many people were able to live past day one, even though many others did not. Walking on this same ground, I felt at peace. The air and sky were calm. Everything was still. For a place to be so serene, it is hard to imagine it having such horrifying history. This reflects on Father Manfred's article "God and Evil: An Anthropological-Philosophical Reflection" where he states that "Behind every evil, good shines, and thus evil unmasks itself as such." This is very appropriate for describing Auschwitz, especially when linked to the story with Edek and Mala.

Auschwitz is not the same place it was during WWII. This is what reassures me that God is looking over all of those who perished at the hands of the Nazis as well as those who survived. Change has occurred since the Holocaust and Auschwitz is now at rest. With help from God many of the victims that have experienced the Holocaust, dead or alive, have been able to be put to rest as well. Now that many of them are finally at peace, the ground at Auschwitz is growing to be more forgiving. Now that so many people are learning and teaching the stories of the Holocaust, the survivors can be reassured that their stories live on even after they have passed. This connection between past and present, dead and alive, and the survivors and the listeners are all proof that God exists, helping humanity regenerate one day at a time.

Galek, Michal. Episodes from Auschwitz: Love in the Shadow of Death. Oswiecim: K & L Press, 2009.

Deselaers, Manfred. "God and Evil: An Anthropological-Philosophical Reflection". Krakow: Unum Publishing House, 2008.



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