My apologies for the delay on the blogs for my Prague/Poland/Israel Trip. When I was overseas the tablet I was using to write was incredibly unreliable, and the wifi at the places I stayed was not favorable.
For three days during my trip I visited two ghettos and a concentration camp, Auschwitz. It would be an understatement to call those days a life changing experience. After that journey the Holocaust is now very real, and connected to me.
The first ghetto I visited was Terezin in the Czech Republic. This was the one that Hitler showed the Red Cross and advertised during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It is easy to see why the Nazis did this, because the location is pristine. The ghetto is situated on the border of a forest and is a stones throw away from a beautiful river. For this reason, I had trouble imagining what the Jews went through at the beginning of my visit there. The word ‘ghetto’ conjures the images of a snowy, overcrowded, gated section of a city, not a place whose landscape is reminiscent of a summer camp.
However my disbelief at Terezin was halted when we visited the cemetery. It contained just a fraction of the graves that the ghetto produced, yet it seemed to go on forever. Then I walked into the Crematorium and looked inside one of its furnaces. It still contained the ashes from the Nazis last day there. That was the moment the Holocaust became terrifying and true to me. Maybe those ashes belong to a child or even someone that I am distantly related to. We walked through the rest of the ghetto, and in a daze I could focus on nothing but the image of human remains.
The next day I went to the Krakow ghetto which did not resonate with me nearly as much as Terezin. This is because the place had been modernized and developed. It was simply not possible for me to imagine what happened there. I was looking at stores, restaurants, pharmacies; not a place where the Jews suffered for years. However the next day I visited Auschwitz and its death camp Birkenau.
Birkenau changes a person, and I was only there for a morning. It is one of the most haunting places on Earth. Over 1,100,000 people have died there, and one feels like they have entered Hell when they pass through its gates.
The place was the most emotional site I have ever been to as well. I felt angry, sad, and gracious. There was a sense of victory in my visit too, because it meant that Hitler lost. He wanted me dead and I visited his camp with over 100 other Jewish teens and we strolled out unharmed. That may seem silly, but it was an incredible feeling.
Read Mulvey's 1st Dispatch: Loveland Magazine Reporter Ricky Mulvey Off to Poland and Israel
Read Mulvey's 1nd Dispatch: Ricky Mulvey's Dispatch From Poland