Posted in MOL 2016 Blog on May 9, 2016
As I sit here on the bus reflecting on the powerful events today, I am overwhelmed at the thought of explaining the day’s emotions, because it was truly a journey. Starting off at the Tykocin shul and shtetl this morning, I was overcome with Jewish pride. Dancing around the shul along with all participants, chaperones and survivors, I felt so proud to be in that room. I felt as though we were carrying on the legacy of the 2,100 innocent Tykocin Jews, whose lives were brutally taken from them at the hands of the Nazis. Though the town no longer has a Jewish population, the original shul still stands – the same shul these Jews must have danced in, prayed in, and rejoiced in before the war. To have honoured the 2,100 who perished this way is something I will never forget.
After we spent some time in the area where the market used to stand, we travelled to the Lupachowa forest, which we learned was the destination of the Jews after they were deported from the shtetl, as well as the place of their brutal death.
Upon our arrival, we walked silently into the forest, our silence enhanced the power of what we were recreating as we walked – the exact path that the Nazis led the Tykocin Jews toward their death.
The forest was eerie and haunting. Three squares outlined by fences draped in Israeli flags, candles, stones and notes with messages in Hebrew and English, mark the exact spots of the pits in which the Tykocin Jews were murdered. Standing next to one of the pits, I was overwhelmed with sadness and confusion. I was in shock. How could a fellow human being treat the Tykocin Jews this way? This question followed me throughout our entire time in the forest.
After a performance of ‘Memories’ by the choir, Esther Fairbloom gave her testimony. As a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, I am always deeply touched by the testimonies, and Esther’s was no exception. Her honest and detailed recounting of her life as a child born into the Holocaust touched the hearts of everyone there. It was so powerful to sit in a place where so many lives were lost, yet sit in front of such a strong woman who has been through so much in her life and is still here with us today to share her story of survival.
After, we travelled to Treblinka, the extermination camp, to mourn the loss of the 900,000 Jews killed there between 1942 and 1943. Many people were able to locate the monuments which marked the towns from which their family members who perished at Treblinka, came from. Here, we heard Anita Ekstein’s testimony. Like Esther, we were all so moved by her willingness to share such traumatizing and scarring memories and tell her important story of survival. Because of the destruction of Treblinka during the war, no one knows exactly what the camp looked like, including where all the buildings were located. For all we know, we were sitting and watching Anita on the exact location of the gas chambers.
While all of the days have been particularly moving, today stands out for me. I felt unified and connected, I felt happy and sad, but most importantly I felt inspired and immensely proud to be able to continue on the important legacy of our people on such an amazing trip.