Saturday, April 16, 2011

Welcome to Poland!

During the night Friday into Saturday, we crossed from the Czech Republic into Poland. At a little after 7 am, we arrived at the main railway station in Warsaw. Our guide was waiting for us in the station and led us to our luxury bus which will take us around Poland. Since we all needed a good meal, we went to our hotel in Warsaw for breakfast and some much needed coffee. Afterward, we boarded the bus again—this time heading outside of the city.

After an hour and a half ride, we arrived at the small village of Treblinka, which became synonymous with the notorious extermination camp built there by the Nazis. Due to its approximation to rail lines, Treblinka was seen as an ideal place for the Nazis to put forth their Final Solution with complete annihilation of the Jewish race. Through the efforts of scientists, doctors, and Nazi leadership, Treblinka became the Reich’s most efficient death camp. In total, over 800,000 people perished at the came—many of whom never realized they were at a death camp until it was too late.

Today, Treblinka is only retained in memory. The Nazis destroyed the camp and planted grass to cover the evidence of their atrocities. To memorialize Treblinka, artists, historians and others came together to create an exhibit that recognizes those that were murdered at the site. With large stone rocks and other features, those that died at Treblinka are not forgotten. During our time at the site of the death camp, all 17 of us went off in our own direction and meandered through the memorial. It was an extremely emotional place, and it was extremely evident how much the students were touched by their somber moods and overall reverence for the memorial.

I’m not sure that I’ve heard high school students be completely silent for more than 10 minutes, but today 14 students did not speak for well over 45 minutes. They were in tune with the overwhelming reality of what happened on the ground we walked on, and they all dealt with it in their own way. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more impressed by young people. If this empathy could exist among all adolescents, it would be a wonderful thing!

After Treblinka, we had a nice lunch on the way back to Warsaw. When we arrived in Warsaw, we toured through Old Town—the portion of Warsaw that was restored after World War II when it was nearly completely destroyed. We finished with a buffet dinner at our hotel, and now find ourselves resting for the remainder of the day.

We all need some time to relax after Treblinka—another reason why this trip is so important and life-changing.

1 comment:

  1. My daughter was so excited to get to Poland, the birth place of her adoring grandmother. As I read her grandmother the blog today we both cried together and wished we could just hug her. I am so proud of her and her fellow students. They are truly all a special group of young adults that have already experienced things which most will never.