Monday, March 11, 2013

Auschwitz-Ann Zelenka

Today’s visit to Auschwitz was quite an experience.  I was finally able to actually put images to the personal knowledge that I have acquired regarding the Shoah. When I saw the standing room area, I finally understood exactly how little space there was for these individuals in the camps. I could not believe that those areas held four people within them.  Additionally, it was quite moving to be able to see the chamber in which St. Maximillian Kolbe gave his life to save his Jewish friend.  He is one of my favorite saints and now I can finally put his story in proper perspective by actually seeing the place where he lived and died. 

An image that struck me as extremely profound was the image of the starved baby crying for help and nourishment: I immediately was moved with compassion for those who had been deprived of food. It reminds me of the importance in my own life to be sure that I always help those in need if I am faced with an opportunity to provide for them.  Additionally, I began to think about the story in the Donat book regarding the Jewish families who kept their children in the knapsacks for protection, and how these children were shot by the Nazis when they cried inside the knapsacks. This image was so powerful and moved me greatly.

 I began to feel sick to my stomach as I saw various exhibits such as the hair, shoes, and bags of the people at the camps. Also, the gas chambers were extremely disturbing to me. I cannot believe that human beings would be so cruel to their fellow humans.

However, human beings make mistakes, and even among all of the hate, there must be forgiveness. We must remember not to prejudice anyone for anything that occurred here, for as Fr. Manford stated  within his lecture last night,  we are all made in God’s Image and Likeness and deserve to be treated with human dignity (Manford 2013).  Hate does not solve anything, and it is quite easy to hate others for what they have done in this regard.  Even though the treatment of those in the camps makes me quite furious, I do not hate these people for what they did. Jesus loved the sinner yet hated the sin, and told those who accused the woman of adultery in the Bible to cast the first stone if they had no sin. As a result of this experience, I desire to become even more understanding of others than I currently am in my life.

 I do not want to go back to Auschwitz because of the intensity of the images and scenes there. I feel that once is enough for me. I do not want to further overwhelm myself nor return to take any more pictures nor again review those exhibits. I was glad to realize that this experience at Auschwitz was not as scary as I thought it would be: I was able to contain my emotions and that is due to the fact that I asked a great amount of people to pray for both myself and the others attending our trip.


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