Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I visited two concentration camps a few years ago, Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. It wasn’t easy walking in the grounds knowing what happened. At Auschwitz, I found myself walking through a former crematorium, along with a number of other tourists and Israeli soldiers, and I felt trapped, disoriented, sick and all I could see were the scratch marks on the wall. It was only when Pavel, our kind Polish guide, grabbed my hand that I was able to move.
It was that particular memory that followed me at Sachsenhausen and when my group gathered in a reconstructed barrack, I felt the same disorientation and I knew I needed to get out of there.
Once I was outside, I called my mother. When she answered, I burst into tears, managing to tell her where I was before I started hyperventilating. Her voice soothed me and she said something that changed my perspective.
“Anjelica, I know it’s hard to be there. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in a place where you know thousands of people died and an unimaginable evil existed. But that’s why it’s important to visit those sites, to remember and to keep reminding people of what can happen if we forget that history.”
It can be utterly devastating to look at the past atrocities that have happened, but it’s so important that we continue doing that. Memory is such an important part of Judaism, both the good and the bad. As an archivist, I feel the heavy responsibility of showing ALL sides of history and it’s one that I take very seriously. I hope I do a good job.