Fun Wednesday

As you know, I’m a bit fascinated with signs. The arrows on the stop lights all look hand-cut. I find it odd and kinda neat.

There is also graffiti everywhere, I kind of assume it’s because it’s a largish city coupled with a huge student population. But it was still a bit surprising /how much/ graffiti there is. I don’t remember even New York  being this tagged.

It’s not a very good photo, but I wish I had my bike here. The road we are on out of Lublin is twisty and fun and quite pretty.

We are discussing comedy. Our guide is a very good English speaker but says he has trouble with jokes. I say that comedy is difficult to get in other languages because you have to understand the background, the context and usually the pop culture. I use blonde jokes as an example, and he says that blonde jokes are everywhere.

There is a McDonalds on the road to Belzec.

We pass a train tracks where a transfer station was and pass through a small town, Zamość that was built in the 16th century and modelled on Renaissance theories of the ‘ideal city’ by Italian archetect Bernardo Morando. We talk about coming back here for lunch after the memorial.

We arrive in Belzec. The parking area for the camp has a rather ironic sign.

A chilly wind comes up as we cross over the train tracks and enter the gate.

The words at the beginning of the memorial look to me like they are crying.

We walk through the entrance into a courtyard and face the monument. It is powerful without even walking any further.

Before experiencing this outside memorial, we go inside to the museum. The eyes in the photographs haunt me.

The exhibit is well done. From both an aesthetic standpoint and an emotional one, it is amazing. There are recordings playing – video interviews with a woman survivor and a voice over of the writings of another survivor, Rudolf Reder, at the model of the camp.I would prefer silence, but the cacophony it creates is perhaps fitting for the turmoil I am feeling.

These are concrete numbers plaques that were given to the victims as a sort of deposit-slip for the valuables before they entered the gas chamber. “Here, have a receipt for something we know you will never come back to retrieve.”

Keys to doors that will never be opened again and most likely no longer exist.

It is overwhelming. So much pain. It would be much easier to pretend it didn’t exist than to acknowledge that such pure evil can exist in our world. (I wrote, “That the reflection of that evil might be too bright.” I was thinking about how perhaps why some people can not accept that this Holocaust happened is because when they look at the evil, they see a reflection of a part of themselves and can not accept that. I know there are other reasons, but perhaps this is one.)

One of the jobs some Jews had was to lead others to the gas chambers and then to pile up the corpses after. On occasion these helper Jews would be send to their death and replaced by new arrivals. If you already knew you were going to die, how could you participate in this? Would you not rather die a quick death than to be tortured each day and die a little at a time?

There is a guard walking around. While I know that it is necessary to have security, especially at a place like this, does the uniform really have to be so … militaristic? Perhaps it does lend an authentic air to this museum, but does it really need any more authenticity?

I keep glancing at him, and he at me. I want to take his photo, but I am worried about getting in trouble. (I’m good at that). I wait and snap a clandestine shot as he walks away.

I am ready to go home. It is much easier to live in a little bubble than it is to face so much reality.

As we start to walk up the ramp towards the exit, our guide mentions a room at the other end of the ramp. He asks if we went inside. My mom and I look at each other and shrug our shoulders. What is it? It is just a large room, he says. Part of the exhibition.

Okay.

We open the tall, narrow door. It clicks and groans and the sound echoes eerily to the end and back with a distinctly metal reverberation. We are in a large concrete room. It is probably about 30 meters long. The door shuts with a very. final. click. It is dark with only a soft spotlight on a close-by plaque and a soft white light at the other end. At the far end of the room, there are two vents near the top of the wall. Every movement of our feet and every sound we utter becomes an ominous echo throughout the chamber. The physical sensation is all-encompassing.

My camera can’t capture the vastness of this chamber, but you can just make out the soft glow at the end. I do not know what the stone says.

We are outside walking around the memorial. This is the walkway to the gas chamber.

Around the perimeter, each Schtetl and town from where Jews were transported to Belzec is listed on the walkway.

It appears to be unending.

We walk and read.

The entire area of the former death camp is covered with piles of slag, symbolizing a mass grave.

I can smell smoke from a near-by factory. It is making the air hazy and creates a disturbing atmosphere to this walk. We descend into the chamber area.

The names of the Jews who were killed here are chiseled into the granite.We look for a family name and find two possibilities.

We ascend the stairs on the side opposite to where we came down.
Hello, little ladybug.

Back to the light. Sort of.

It is time to make our way out of the memorial. We are drained.

We leave Belzec and head back towards Lublin. We stop at Zamość, which is about 50km from Belzec and go to an underground gen-u-ine Polish restaurant. I have perogies full of mushrooms and cabbage.

My back and right shoulder are hurting from lugging my mom’s giant heavy suitcase around Warsaw the other day and even though both my mom and the guide say that I am doing impressively well with the time-adjustment, I am very tired. I order an espresso. Do they even put caffeine in espresso over here? It doesn’t feel like it and I wonder if I should have gotten a double.

We walk through the old town square and find the synagogue, which was built in 1620.

It is quite beautiful inside the synagogue.

Of course, there is an interesting old door inside.

I learn all sorts of interesting history that I’m too tired to take in. All I want is some ibuprofen and a bed. I sit down on a marble step next to the computer mom and guide are looking through a video of the history of the area. I keep nodding off, so go outside and sit on a cold concrete step.

Finally, they are ready to go. My back and shoulder are aching so much that each step sends a painful jolt through my body. We get back to the car and I immediately take three ibuprofens. I sit in the back seat and look out the car window. The low sun is peaking through the clouds and creates beautiful oranges splashing across the cloudy horizon.

I consider telling them to look, but I’m feeling selfish and want to keep the view to myself. We are stopped in traffic so I can take the photo, but I can’t capture the beauty of the sunset with my camera.

We get underway, and as usual, the rocking of the car puts me fast asleep.

More photos can be viewed here.

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