Last night (Sunday night), all the group participants, Jordy, Josh, Dovid, and Diane, gathered in the hotel to discuss our trip at large. We spoke about Asher and the wonderful Jew he was; we shared our darkest and lightest moments on the trip, and we offered insight as to what we could do to continue bringing light from this trip to the world.  It was meaningful to hear each person’s different perspective on what we had all witnessed.

 

This morning (Monday), we went to “Talmud torah darcheu noam” of Lodz to daven Shacharit. It is a shul whose interior was destroyed by the Germans and Russians,  and was later refurbished by the Jews of Lodz.  Rabbi Symcha Keller told us about the history of the community and where it is now. He described modern day Lodz as “a train station” because people are always coming and going, discovering they are Jews or coming out of hiding, leaving the religion or leaving to Israel or America because there is not much left for them here in Poland. Today, the shul has 500 members. We donated tzeddakah to the shul to ensure its upkeep and prosperity.

 

Our final stop was Chelmno. We went to the first place the Nazis used gas as a form of systematic murder. They told the Jewish captives that they would need to shower before receiving hot soup and then proceed to work. Then they were instructed to undress and, unknowingly, walked onto vans which had their exhaust pipes linked to the interior of the truck. This took place in a mansion that has since been completely destroyed; all that’s left is a nondescript metal gate surrounding it. We would never have known about it if not for the only two survivors’ testimonies, one of whom we listened to from a video while standing outside the site of the mansion.

 

Next, we traveled a few minutes from that site to a nearby forest, taking the same route that the vans took. There, the Nazis either buried or burned the corpses. We walked around the newly constructed memorial site. Josh contrasted our last stop on the trip to our first, the Warsaw Jewish cemetery. The cemetery was a testament to the presence of rich Jewish life in Poland, while the forest we were in was a testament to Jewish death. That being said, the need to avenge the Jewish lives we lost by living the full Jewish lives they never could is so important. On Friday, we read letters of messages that the last generation wanted to pass to us. Today, we wrote letters that we wanted to pass to the next generation, to continue the existence of a strong Jewish people.