Friday, September 23, 2011- Day 5


The castle of Lublin, place where the king lived. This Building is reconstructed, this is where Lita and Poland were united. King kazimish the great doesn’t leave anyone after him when he died, instead the princes from Hungary arrives here. Her name is Edviga and she is engaged to the prince of Germany, but they want her to marry the prince of Lita instead, but she refuses mainly since he is not Catholic, so he converts and Poland and Lita are united into the great Poland. She dies at 23 years old, but this is where the agreement about the unity was signed.

Jews lived here since the 14th century, around 44,000 of them and this is the center of the old city of Lublin. Jews then moved inside the city. There were lots of “Yeshivot” here, very rich Jewish life and very rich cultural life. During the war Odelio Globotznick is in control in Lublin, together with Hans Frank who controls Krakow, they both together run the Reindheart operation with the objective to clear the entire area from Jews.

The first thing Germans do here is to concentrate the Jews in the Lublin area. They tried first the “Nisco” plan, to put the Jews together in a small area and let them die naturally from hunger and deceases. This doesn’t work, so they decide to close the Ghetto and send the Jews to the death camps in Belzet or in Majdanek. The street light which is always on now days is left here by people of Lublin as a memorial to what used to be the Jewish community of Lublin and vanished during the war.

Inside the old quarter of Lublin

The inside of the city today used to be the Jewish Ghetto during the war. There was lots of Jewish community life here. We went through the “Grotzka Gate” leading to the quarter, nothing was left here except of that street light we passed. We follow a story of a Jewish family from the Ghetto, the Zytomirski family. Together with the Jews from here, they are all taken and sent to Belzen. Each year on April 14 lots of kids from Poland write letters to Henio Zytomirski, the child of that family who died. His father worked at the post office and lots of times he used to sign letter with “address unknown”, so the letters they write get signed by the post office with the signature “address unknown” and sent as a memorial. There is also a Facebook page which was opened in his memory. Interesting that these activities are done by a polish group, non Jewish theater group called “Brama Grotzski”, who were touched by the story of this child and his family.

What happened on the day after the war is over? Polish people take over the Jewish houses. Lublin is freed by Russians already on early 1944, Jews come back here and organize themselves again in community life. In January 1945 the first Zionist congress is held here, the topic is the question what are we going to do now? Stay in Poland or try and move to Israel which is under the British mandate? This question divided the Jews who survived, not all of them wanted to move to Palestine, lots decided to go back to their previous lives in Poland.

Another question is how do we get revenge now after the war is over? Jews are separated into groups, each group works on their own agenda and they are all waiting to the results of the war. They have also put the staff from Belzen camp on trial. There are only 2 Jews who survived Belzezc, when more than 300,000 Jews were killed at that camp.

This parking lot used to be where the houses of the Jewish quarter were:


Story of this camp begins already in Warshaw, we talk about Alina Birenbaum here, she was sent with her family to Majdanek near Lublin, we follow her book called “life in hope” החיים בתקווה

We start the walk into the camp, again with white delegation shirts, with flags and we also plan a ceremony inside. It’s very important and emmotional to enter the camps with flags and also in white, as if we want to say that we are coming here with pride, coming here strong and independent and officially represent the state of Israel, what a statement to make in the camps !

Majdanek stars as a war prisoners camp, becomes a concentration camp and then changes into a death camp. It tries first to teach people how to think inside the box like everyone else, re-educate them to think “the proper way” as the Natzi party wanted.

Israeli flags and the Majdanek monument behind:

The camp is only 2 kilometer away from the town of Lublin. This is true now but also was true when Jews were brought here to die. No one can say that they didn’t know what is happening, there is no way not to know when the camp is attached to your city.

First they bring here the polish elite for re-education and then the others. In the beginning of 1942 the camp became a death camp, October 1942 they started killing Jews here.

In 1942 there are already 6 working death camps all together.

When you walk down the path into the camp, the houses of Lublin on your right will slowly disappear as you go in. As you go down, your muscles try to stop you from entering, but there is nothing you can do to stop you from going inside and as you do, the city is still living it’s regular life as it used to do. The camp encloses you and you have no idea where you are and what is going to happen to you. This is the entrance to the camp now, and it is designed to show you what Jews felt as they walked into the camp and watched the city disappearing away from them.

In front of us is the camp itself, the road leading into the camp leads us into the dome of ashes, there is a mountain of ashes there, collected from all the burial fields around Majdanek. Most camps sent the ashes they collected to be used as fertilizers in Germany, this camp runs it’s agriculture alone and uses the ashes locally.

The road here looks as if it’s broken, it’s all part of the monument, there are cracks here, symbolizing the prisoners who lived here and can’t rebuild their life tho they were saved from the camp, but the terrible experience they had in this camp lives inside them and cracks their soul for ever. Up to the dome it’s all part of the monument built when the camp was opened for visitors.

Entrance to the camp today was the area where the soldiers and camp personel lived and where the SS buildings were. The building we see is front of us is the area where the women guards lived.

In 1944 the Russians came and cleared the camp, not leaving anything from the original camp. Instead, they planted trees as a memorial forest. They only left the gas area and two buildings together with some signs around the crematorium. The entire place was then covered with grass and was even used by local polish people as a picnic site. Then it was turned to be a memorial site, no picnics are allowed now, but you can still see people taking a short cut through the camp to get home behind the camp of today.

What is written on the monument is unclear, each one can see what he thinks and wants to see, you can look through and see the ashes mountain, with an inscription: “what happened to us is a warning for you” – this we have to remember when we visit Majdanek.

The white house on our right is the house of the doctors here, there were 2 doctors here, but instead of saving life they took life.

Karl Koch was the head of this camp. He was an accountant for the SS, stole money and was caught, instead of being put to jail he was sent to lead Majdanek since he was very close to Himler himself. His wife was Ilze Koch. Her hobby was to prepare lamps from skulls and skin of prisoners. Was she also a murderer or not? is she to be blamed as much as her husband who ran the camp?

This leads to a discussion of who is responsible for the holocaust, who is to be blamed, these who actually pulled the trigger, these who gave the orders or maybe also these who helped, these who took part or even these who knew and didn’t do anything to prevent this from happening? This is a very difficult question, there is no answer for that question, it’s one of the dilemmas of the Holocaust that we have to deal with.

The buildings on the right is where the gas rooms were, it can’t be seen now, we can just see the laundry room of this camp. Men and women are separated here and they enter the camp, men are taken to field number 2 and women are brought inside. The selection here is not like in Birkenau, Germans take these whom they think are not fit enough to an empty area between the fields, the rest stay here. These who were taken from the group never came back. Helina who wrote the book about this says her mom kept telling her that soon they will go into the bath, take a shower and then go out to work at the fields. As a little girl she was hoping for the line to move faster so she can get into the bath faster and then go to the block where she will have lots of food and be warm. She didn’t know that soon her mother will be taken into the bath and never return from there alive

Germans cut the hair of these who entered into the bath, they sold the hair to companies to process it into industrial fiber felt. Only hair from men was used for that. We have evidence of the Germans selling 730 kilo of hair to a factory to make mattresses for soldiers on submarines. Russians who came to liberate the camp found there hair waiting to be shipped to the factories. They also found there 800,000 shoes and a mountain of ashes.

Cutting your hair also takes away your human self respect. First the hair, then a number is tatood on your arm, your freedom is taken away from you, then your life to. We enter into these inner rooms now, this is what they thought are showers in a bathhouse, sometimes it was just real showers but most times wasn’t, in most cases it was the gas chambers. Here at the square of red roses as the prisoners called it because of also the blood spillt here, Helina’s mother was killed.

These are the real showers where they took the lucky ones who stayed alive, they were showered, disinfected and then sent to work. There is a very touching and shocking scene in the movie “Schiendler’s list” where the prisoners scream and are sure they are going to be gassed to death in the showers, till they realize these are regular showers and it’s actually water coming out.

But the rest, including Helina’s mother, were not that lucky, they were gassed to death here in this room. The blue color on the walls that we see until this day are remains of the gas, cyclon B, the gas comes in the shape of powder, in touch with air it becomes deadly gas that kills many people at once in a very short time, about 20 minutes. They even heated the bodies by making people take hot showers before they went into the gas chamber, this way the gas was more effective.

Some of the victims in Majdanek were killed using this gas. Most of them were killed using CO gas, which came from big dizel engines.

We look into the room where the gas was thrown to kill people, nothing much to see today, empty room, dark, closed, just with one picking hall where Germans could make sure that everyone inside are dead.

This is a song that says “years and nothing is forgotten”! Sang outside of the gas chambers in Majdanek

When a man cries inside his heart, only God can hear his cry, when the heart is quiet the soul inside shouts – words from another song we sang outside the room where Helina’s mother was killed.

We enter the restored part of the camp, camp 3, male compound:

The inside of block number 14, again 3 layers of people

In Majdanek you had to fight for everything, for food, for a place on the floor to sleep, for space, there was no place in Majdanek for the sick or weak people, survival of the fitted.

The crematorium:

November 3rd, 1943 Germans brought here more than 40,000 people and shot them on the fields behind us, on one day, 18,000 Jews were killed here from the camp, they ran them between the fences into the fields and at field 5 they made them take off their cloths, leave their valuables, go into the halls and shot them layer upon layer, while loud dance music was played through loudspeakers.

On November 5th they burned all the bodies here. The crematorium building is original. Inside the room stands a bed which was used to look for valuables inside people. They opened the bodies up to look for valuables that they might have swollowed. This is a sarcophagus which was used to store the remains of corpses burnt here, around July 1944:

The Germans used the heat produced from burning the bodies to heat the water for showers for the time prisoners would take their monthly shower. The German who operated the crematourium was hitting his shower water by burning bodies of gassed Jews. Rest of the ashes was added to the compost used to fertilize the soil for the nearby SS farm.

Mountain of ashes of victims:

We end this visit with a ceremony at the foot of the crematorium, near the mountain of ashes of victims murdered in Majdanek:

Click on this to listen to the song we heard at the foot of the mountain of ashes

End of day is the ceremony to remember the victims of Majdanek

Of course, we end this ceremony with singing the “Tikvah”

Tonight is Shabbat evening, the entire delegation has Shabbat dinner together, all in white shirts, traditional dinner with some songs and music, very hard after a day in Majdanek, but very powerful experience specially after such a day of death.

Shabbat Shalom !

Sabbath of peace – this is the traditional blessing we bless each other on Shabbat, it is much more meaningful in Poland, after a day in Majdanek, peach is what we all pray for.

We all had dinner together, starting with couple of songs to receive the Shabbat:

The song “Adon Olam”

The song “Yachad”

Next day: Saturday, September 24, 2011 – Day 6

Saturday, September 24, 2011 – Day 6

City tour of Warshaw

Today is the Shabbat, so we will have a walking tour of the city center in order not to use the busses as much as we can. We walk through the city into the city center, the old part of Warshaw.

We are inside the Ghetto, looking at the wall of the Ghetto. This is the last house that was left from the original Ghetto:

3 weeks after the beginning of the war, Poland is no longer independent, it is taken by the Germans and will stay under Foregin control till the 90’s. Polish army had no chance fighting against the Germans, they tried to fight tanks and army with horses. The first Ghetto is build, Ghett Petrokov (Rabbi Israel Lao, who used to be the chief Rabbi of Israel, came from that Ghetto). Before the war there were around 350,000 Jews in Warshaw, most of them left Warsaw, rest are sent into the Ghetto, the wall is built and all these Jews are forced to live very crowded inside the walls.

Watch the movie “the pianist”, about life in the Ghetto in Warshaw. This will give you an idea of how life use to be inside the Ghetto, how the Jews lived in Warshaw before the war and how life changed for them, it will make you understand the tragedy.

The Ghetto is closed at 1940, it has 174 streets in it, but is keeps around 450,000 Jews now, with refugees from all over the area. The entire Ghetto is only 2.4% of the entire city, but the Jews here are 30% of the total population – very crowded, with no green areas at all at the Ghetto. Streets in the Ghetto are very small, very crowded, one-way only, hunger, crime, dirty, poverty, those are the conditions in the Ghetto.

Just to give the idea of hunger, people lived in the Ghetto on 187 calories per day, normal people need between 2000 to 3000 calories per day, specially if they are active or if it is cold. There was food that could be bought, but there was no money. There was a very developed black market for goods and food, but people couldn’t afford it. With all the difficulties around people tried their best to keep normal life, they had weddings, they loved, they red books and kept cultural life, they tried to stay human beings. There was a children hospital there, where Janush Kortzak worked, built from donations of Jews from the community. After he finished there, Janush went to open homes for orphan children. This hospital had a research on hunger, which was accepted as an academic research and is still used until today. Unfortunately the reason why this was such a reliable and accurate research was that they used real people who were starving from hunger, who can think that the results of this research are not true given the place and time it was taken?

July 1942 Jews from here are deported to the camps in the east. Germans always used Judaism to fight against Judaism, so they used meaningful Jewish dates to start deportation, this deportation took place on the 9th of the Hebrew month of AV, the day of the destruction of the temple and a very sad day in Jewish history.

Part of the wall that went around the Ghetto survived:

Passing the house of Y. L. Peretz, a famous Jewish writer:

The children’s hospital:

This is the hospital from the inside. This is the closest you can get to imagine life inside the Ghetto, this house looks the same as it did before, including the original wall which is part of the entrance gate

This was part of the original gate, we can see here the original brick wall ant the base of the gate in these days. We have a photo with a body of a dead person in the street of the Ghetto, you see this gate base clearly in that photo.

Another original part of these streets:

This is another house from the period of the Ghetto

Same house from the other side:

We are in the square where the Jewish synagogue is, the Nozuk. This is part of what used to be the “small Ghetoo” in Warshaw. Today this is the center of Jewish life in Poland, including Israelis who are part of the diplomatic corps. In Warshaw now there are around 400 Jews. Lots of the Jewish restoration is thanks to Ron Lauder. He started sponsoring Jewish life here, rebuilding buildings and that even brings polish people to discover their Judaism and convert back to Judaism. Many of these people were taken from their parents and put with polish families, they grew up as non-Jews and now they come back to their original religion.

Church of the convertors in the midst of the small Ghetto. Some Jews changed their religion, but these new Christians were still considered Jews by the new anti semitism, since for Natzism this was a matter of race and not of religion:

The statue of the previous pope John paul the 2nd. You can see him everywhere in Poland:

Synagogue in the Ghetto, the Nozuk synagogue. There were 5 big synagogues and many more smaller synagogues. This is the only one that survived the holocaust:

Synagogue is build by Pinchas Nozuk, a reach man who had no children and donated at 1902 money to build this. It was active till the beginning of the war. Building was renovated at 2008 by the Warshaw municipal government office and the Jewish community. During the war the synagogue was robbed and the Natzis used the building, this is why it survived the war. The yard here was where Jews would be gathered to be taken to work around.

Today all these buildings are sponsored by Ron Lauder, son of Estee Lauder who was born in Warshaw. There is a kindergarden here, and Jewish life in the community.

Tomb of the unknown soldier in Warshaw, behind the fountain:

This is from the front, they also have here memorial for Jewish fighters from the Ghetto:

Free time at the city square:

Monument in memory of the polish revolt in Warshaw

During the communist control over Poland they were not suppose to remind this revolt. We are not talking about the revolt at the Ghetto in Warshaw, started on the eve of Passover 1943, but on a later revolt where polish revolted against the Germans. During the Warshaw revolt in 1943, Jews from the Ghetto were fighting together with the polish underground outside. The polish didn’t fully cooperate with the Jews, they helped them but they didn’t take an active part in it. In August 1944 after the end of the revolt in the Ghetto, Russians get closer to Poland, polish think this is the time to fight against the Germans together with the Russians, but the Russian army doesn’t enter Poland and doesn’t help them. They prefer to let the Germans kill the polish, more than 200,000 people from the total population of Warshaw, then they take over and the polish realize they are now under Russian control. They are not allowed to build monuments and until 1990 there is only a small monument not far from here and that’s all. This new monument was built in mid 90’s in memory of the revolt of the polish people, not the Jews.

In the evening, we listen to the story of Joseph Pink. He is a polish farmer who saved the life of a Jewish family during the war and for that received the title of a Rightouse among the nationas and a certificate from Yad Vashem. He and his children are not alive, but his grandchild came to the ceremony and honored us all with her story. The Pink family saved few Jews, among them the grandmother of a girl from the trip, so it was emotional to see how that girls gets to meet people from the family who saved her grandmother, realizing that if not for them, she herself wouldn’t be alive today. What else do we need to understand that all living Jews today are in some way Holocaust survivors?

After dinner, we enjoyed a polish folklore show before we sat down to talk about the experiences we had today. Here are some photos from that show:

Short movie from the folklore music dance and show:

Next day: Sunday, September 25, 2011 – Day 7

Sunday, September 25, 2011 – Day 7

From Warshaw to Treblinka

The movie we watched on the way from Warshaw to the death camp in Treblinka was “the pianist” based on the true story of Wladislaw Spielman. Years later the Natzi officer who helped him at the last days got the title of a rightous among the nations from Yad Vashem for his part in saving his life.

Now we are watching the movie “the escape from Sobibor”, this was one of 3 death camps built to solve the Jewish issue during the Reindhart Operaton, Sobibor was the most secretive of all 3 camps. These camps were built on 1942  according to Himler’s decision to initiate the “final solution” for the Jewish problem.


Together with Sobibor and Belzen these were 3 death camps to kill all the Jews from the “general governament”, mainly from Warshaw and Radom, no work here, no concentration camp, just death

On July 1942 there is a telegram to the Ghetto in Warshaw saying that Treblinka camp is ready to operate. Since July 24 and on thousands of Jews were sent here straight to death, while Germans kept exact lists of all these who are sent here and arrive to the camp. They keep few here to run the camp, but most people who arrived here by train never left, the train with 60 wagons stops 3 km from the camp, at a small village not far from here. The camp is inside the forest, kept secret, surrounded with barb wire, Germans didn’t want anyone to know what is going on here.

Fence around the camp is very primitive, no mine fields, just guards and wire. Not too many escaped the camp. There was an attempt to revolt at Treblinka, few tried to escape, not too much luck. They were few survivors, not too many

Commander of this camp was Frantz Schtengel. He was always dressed in white. Trains to the camp would take much longer than excepted. Train would arrive to the station in Melchinia, the village 3 km away from the camp, then Germans would send 20 wagons at a time inside the camp, into the gas chambers, while the others are kept in the station with no water and no food, waiting to get inside the camp. The curve we see is the turn of the train the goes into the camp:

Doors were locked from the outside, as the train gets to the station inside Treblinka, SS soldiers would hurry them all out of the train, separate men from women and children and send them to the gas. Someone who was sent to inspect what is going on here was sent by the Jewish fighting group “Eyal” to the train station in Melchinia, he realizes that all the trains arriving here but no train is going out of here, more than that, no food transports are brought here, no evidence that people are kept in the camp, so they understand that these who get here only get to their death.

There is a song called “this is the station Treblinka” by Yehuda Poliker, talking about the train arriving here. No selection as the ramp, just if they needed certain professions they would find them, otherwise they would be sent to death. No living people left Treblinka or Sobibor, very few people survived, not more than that. Of all the 900,000 people who arrived here, around 5 survived, mainly cause they managed to jump from the train or survive in a miraculous way

The camp was closed by the Germans at 1943 when they managed to kill all Jews from the “general governament”, around 2.2 million Jews were murdered during 1 year more or less. Once the camps were closed, all the other Jews  would be sent to the biggest death camp of them all, Auschwitz Birkenau

A short part with a melody from the Mezeritch Orthodox community, talking about “I believe in full believe in the coming of the Mesiach, tho it will take long, he will eventually come”. How can you believe in such a place? How can you keep waiting for the Mesiach to come and hope he will arrive before you get to the camp?

Camp plan at the entrance to the camp:

The entire camp could be explains in 5 numbers: the camp’s grounds were 400 * 600 meters, operated by 30 SS men and 120 Ukraine Wachmen who helped them, was active for 13 months and killed 874,000 Jews during the year it was opened and also some gypsies. Jews here were killed by CO coming out of gas engines, and the bodies were then burned on an open fire at the end of the camp.

The clock at the train station in Treblinka always said 6, Jews were suppose to give their property and they even got a receipt for it, they were told to write letters to their families behind, and the Germans sent these letters to the families, all part of the deceiving and making them think that there is no death here. The sick and weak people were sent to the so called “clinic”, a deep hole with fire burning in it, German soldiers would shoot them and they would fall into the hole. Outside there were people dressed in white like medical team, here was a red cross outside, another part of the deceiving, all these who were sent there fell into the fire.

One of these Ukraine soldiers was Iwan Demyanyouk, we are not sure if he was “Iwan the terrible” from Treblinka or if he was in Sobibor, he went to trial in Israel in 1988 and wasn’t found guilty because the evidence against him were not 100% proven. He was then trialed in Germany for his part in Sobibor and is now in prison for 7 years. This was a very famous case that took place in Israel years ago, went to the US and from there to Germany.

From the ramp the road leads into the gas chambers. First the Jews took off their cloths, they cut their hair, cloths are sorted out and then sent back to Germany, women’s hair is cut, people are then sent into the “schlouch”, a path that led into the gas chambers. Germans called this “stairway to heaven” or in German “hiemel strasse”. At it’s end, there was a sign saying “this is the gate to god, only righteous will go through it” – people would be pushed inside, gassed and die after 20 minutes. There were 2 operators there, Iwan and Nikolai, both ukraines. People were screaming, crying, praying, slowly there was silent and they all died. They are first buried, but Himler ordered to dig the bodies out and burn them not to leave any evidence, to keep it all in secret.

This is the perfect crime as far as the Germans, no bodies, nothing is left here, camp is destroyed in 1943 and is turned into a farm of a polish guy who lives here and builds his house with bricks from the gas chambers. Russians arrive and local polish people come here, dig the ground to look for gold, and the municipality then turns this into a memorial site on May 1964, memorial for all the communities who arrive here in Treblinka, 17,000 communities in total.

This is the location of the gas chambers, now a monument:

Never again – this is the inscription at the entrance to what used to be the gas chambers:

We hear here the story of 1 child from school and his family and leave stones with names of victims we want to remember, individual memory of one community, one person from that community, we listen to the story of 9 years old Esther, through a letter she wrote her uncle in Israel then, she lived in Ostrowiec before the war, was very Zionist, wrote in Hebrew and wishes she lived in Israel. Esther Bleiberg is killed here at the war.

We listen now to a song while we leave stones with names here:

Click on this to listen to the song “I Believe” by Yehuda Dim

Candles were left to burn in their memory:

And we end the visit with a ceremony performed by the kids.


250,000 Jews were killed in Sobibor, but there was a revolt there and the story of that revolt is in the movie “Escape from Sobibor”

Tikotzin or Tiktin as the Jews called it in it’s glory:

This small village is an hour away from Treblinka. Time here stopped, it looks as it looked like years ago. Jews here were 70% Of the population, this is a typical Jewish “schteitel” and before the war this was all very Jewish. The house in the photo was a Jewish home, place of the “melamed” teaching kids above 3 years old to read and pray. You needed minimum of 10 families here to have a “minian” and this becomes an important village on the 16th century. Eve of the war we have here around 2500 Jews here, they have flower mills, they are shoe makers, fishermen and all the other classical things Jews did.

July 1941 in preparation to the Barbarosa Operation, special killing groups came in and started killing Jews. These Einzatsgroupen took people to the woods, shot them and throw them into holes in the forest. Rabbi and the leaders of the community meet and try to understand what is happening. Russians have left, Germans came back and now local polish people lynch the Jews, kill them, burns them and the Jews are worried. They remember the Germans as cultural people, so they decide to tell Jews to meet at the market place. August 25 1941 all Jews are here, waiting, German soldiers surround the square with tracks and machine guns, at 07:15 Germans take 1400 people from this town to the unknown.

Synagouge of town:

Inside the synagogue, center of Jewish life in town:

Synagogue has around 1000 seats in it, very big, used only for Shabbat and holidays and it was build already in the 16th century, at 1642. This was the center of life for many generations of Jews. Lots of connections between this town and Jews from Amsterdam, even the font on the walls here is the Amsterdam font. Town stopped to developed when the railway went around it and bypassed it, this is why it’s as if it was frozen in time. Today this synagogue is the museum for the history of the Jews of Tiktin. It’s not used any more by Jews.

We have here a short ceremony, with couple of songs:

Killing area at the woods outside of Tiktin

We are walking into the woods exactly as the people from here walked years ago. All delegation members have flowers in their hands, on the way where all Jews of Tiktin were murdered.

Prayer circle in the forest:

The path into the woods where Jews were taken:

This is one of the places where jews were taken to be killed:

August 25, 1941 all these Jews from Tiktin, total of 1400 people were taken into the forest, put in line and killed. Day later the rest, 700 more are taken and killed at the second hole. End for this great community here. The two friends who were sent home before follow the group into the woods, they meet few more who survived, but the Germans look for them, they are all captured, 25 of them come back after the war. Another person was shot here in the hole, but managed to stay alive and get out of here, he wrote a testimony before he was captured again and sent to the camps by the Germans.

3 holes are here and all Jews from Tiktin are baried here. We each have a name and life story of a person who was killed here.


We are here in a small village, where we came to meet with a righteous among the nations. This man’s grandfather saved Jews during the war and hid them in a pigs place, which is now turned into a barn. He is now wearing Israeli army shirt, paratroopers barrett and has ranks on, all souvenirs from Israeli groups visiting

This village is not far from the Lochopova forest, where the community of Tikitin was murdered. The family here is the Gusk family, Chana and Meitek (the farmer from this village) learned at school together, she is hiding in the woods near the village Wygoda, they are hiding in a flower mill near by, and the father of the Friedman family asks Meitek to hide them. We met now with the son of Meitek, he is in the photo.

They dig a small hole under the pig’s place and hides there 8 people in total, they spent time in the forest and came back to hide, very secret, careful not to let anyone find out, they were hiding here for around 20 months till one day 3 soldiers came here and they had to leave and came back. Towards the end of the war they had to leave, Chana’s father is shot, she and her mother hide under the bridge and freed at August 21, 1944. The father died before but the mother died only a month ago, August 2011. They risked their life just to save Jews since they were human beings.

Next day: Monday, September 26, 2011 – Day 8

Monday, September 26, 2011 – Day 8

Morning of the last day in our journey

We start the morning with a meeting in a polish school, where the kids will have a friendly basketball game. This is a tradition of the school, each time they come to Poland, and they already have long terms relations with this school. For me it was good to see that we don’t only teach the kids what the polish people did during the war but also teach them that there is a new generation and there is hope and that they can connect with this new generation from a whole different point now, as young strong independent Israelis.

The two groups are on the field already, getting ready to the game.

In the second quarter of the game:

3rd quarter and we are leading 27:26 after hard fight. The game is over and we won 35:30

Okopova, the Jewish cemetery in Warshaw:

This is the only Jewish cemetery that survived from the time of the Ghetto and the largest in Europe that exists today

From the size of this cemetery, you can understand the size of the Jewish community that was here and the size of the tragedy of the Jewish people in the holocaust. This cemetery started in 1806 and is very large, the city grew around it.

Old graves with more modern graves, simple people but also rich people and of course Rabbis, you can see here the faces of the Jewish society in Poland:

This grave is the burial place of a very famous rabbi, rabbi Shlomo Zalman, he is buried in a separate building so when people come to visit his tomb, they will be able to meet and pray on his grave

All Jews who are buried here will be put with their feet towards the exit from the cemetery, do when resurrection day arrives, they will be able to get out of the cemetery. When you have the Jewish date on the grave, you turn it into numbers by Gimatria (numerical value of letters) then add 1240 to get the regular gregorian calendar.

Professor Balaban who is buried here researched all Jewish communities in Europe including the Caraim, who believe only in the written Torah. Hitler wanted to use his research to decide if they are Jewish or not so he can include them with all Jews. Balaban told the Germans that Caraim are not Jews in order to save them, but Germans didn’t accept that and they killed them together with the Jews.

To summarize the visit to the cemetery, the fact that the new part of it is so small shows that no jews were left in the city, not enough people to die here cause the community is so small

In the green area behind this stone, there is a mass grave for the victims of the Ghetto in Warshaw.

During the time the Ghetto was active, there were lots of dead people in the streets, too many to be buried in individual graves, not to mention that sometimes they had problems to identify people, so they were all put into 5 mass graves. First, they would take the dead and hand them to someone to bury them, then they would just put the body dressed in the street at night, then they would even take their cloths to use and put their naked bodies in the streets. Lots of bodies would be collected from the streets and taken to mass graves, they died of hunger or Tiphus. Polish couple designed this monument and the black line on the stones in third hight, symbol for third of the Jewish people who were killed during the holocaust, 6 millions out of total of 18 millions Jews in the world on the eve of second world war. We estimate more than 100,000 people in all these mass graves here in Warshaw.

Tomb of Doctor Zamenhouf who invented the Esperanto. He was born in Bialistock and wanted to make people speak the same language, so he invented Esperanto for everyone to speak. Here is the sign of that language:

Tomb of someone from the Bund organization, these who wanted to be Jews in Poland and speak Yiddish instead of going to Palestine like the zionists wanted. One of these was Mark Idelman, who is buried here:

Tomb of the father of Janush Kortzack, Josef Goldzmit. He was mentally ill at the end of his life and his son never married since he was afraid that this will pass on in the family.

In the next grave, this is the Tomb of the famous writers Y. L. Peretz, Anski and Rinzaan, all from around 1920

The Heroism Path to the Rapaport Monument

We are at the “cargo square”, the “Umschlagplaz”, where the Germans transported many Jews from the Ghetto to send them to the camps. The black line again on the third part of the wall, is a symbol to third of the Jewish people who were sent from here to the camps. During the selections, Germans had quotes of Jews to send to the camps, they used to catch passing by Jews and send them to the trains. 1942 the trains leave from here to Treblinka.

One of the kids in the group shared here the story of his grandmother: her father was picked up in the street to be sent to death, but he paid a German soldier and gave him a gold watch and he was saved. She herself was saved by a German soldier only because of a mistake in identification: another Jewish family paid him to save their girl, he made a mistake and saved the grandmother instead. When he brought her back to them, they all realize the mistake he made, her father then found her and they managed to survive the war. She spent the rest of the time till the end of the war with a polish woman who kept her alive, but she always knew that her life was saved because of the mistake of that German, and that another child was killed instead of her.

We are looking into the “umschlagplaz”:

The Path of Heroism is built from 16 stones who mark heroes of the holocaust, writers, poets, fighters, they all did their part to contribute and they are remembered along this path.

We walk along these 16 stations, 16 stones with different stories.

The path ends at the Rapaport monument, remembering the victims who died in the revolt of the Ghetto in Warshaw:

In front of it they are now building the new Jewish museum:

We will have here the closing ceremony of the entire journey:

Before the big ceremony we had a small circle of everyone together with a song:

Click on this to listen to the song “Great Light” by Amir Ganon”

In front of the monument:

This is the final ceremony at the end of the last day, Abigail is going to sing few songs here. She opens the ceremony, sings in the middle of it and closes it with the national anthem of Israel:

Group photo of all the kids during the ceremony below the monument:

Tonight was the final meeting of the entire group. We sat in a circle, trying to see what did each one of us get from this journey. This is a very individual experience, some have it strongly and some don’t, but everyone leaves something behind in the soil of Poland and takes something back with him to Israel. What is that thing?

We heard lots of things that the kids went through. They gained knowledge of course, understanding of what happened, felt sadness and sorrow for the victims, shared life story of people and families, as well as of their class mates, but they each experienced in in a different way. One of the most deep sentences I heard in this journey was in Majdanek, the guide told the kids: “some of the Jews who died here spend here less time than the time we spent touring here” – this was so true, one minute they were there, people with families, dreams, hopes, life and the next moment they were gone, just like that, as if there were never there, it made me think of how fragile life is, how important it is to appreciate what you have in life and how lucky we are to be in our own strong independent country, with an army to protect us, with life and hopes for the future, which wasn’t the part of these who were murdered.

Eli Eli, the song openning the ceremony:

Sleep Little Girl:

HaTikvah, the song closing the ceremony: