27th Jan 2008 - A piece for Grandma.

Auschwitz 1 Dec 2007
Today Monday 27th Jan, is Holocaust memorial day.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Rather than writing something new, I thought I would post something I wrote in 2008 following my school trip to Poland. I wrote it after talking to my Grandma on the phone about what I had seen. She asked if I would write a piece for an exhibition in Liverpool.

This was a message she wrote to the person in charge of the exhibition and it was included in an email she sent to me back then.
Please excuse any of my 16 year old self spelling mistakes.

"Earlier today I had a phone call from my 16 year old granddaughter Emma, she lives in London. How I wish you could have heard her. I wish I could have recorded our conversation, she is in Poland for a week with her school visiting, Lublin, Majdanek, Auschwitz/Birkenau etc…….it has been minus 10 degrees each day. Emma was subdued by the horror of what she had seen. She said she didn’t want to walk on the ground there any more because of the millions whose ashes were there. She had visited a cemetery where the remains of 800 Jewish children had been interred. The horror of what occurred had hit her hard  …….and I spoke to her and said that she was blessed because I was blessed………….I was lucky enough to have been born in England…………if I had been born in Europe then I too would have perished……….my children would not have been born…….nor my grandchildren ….including Emma. She understood. I wish she had been closer so that I could have hugged her."

I have recently come back from a school organised trip to Poland where we visited a number of holocaust sites, such as mass graves, concentration camps and monuments to commemorate the lives lost. My Grandma said to me on the phone while I was on the coach after visiting Auschwitz that, she was born in 1937, had she had been born in France, Poland, Germany, Russia, anywhere other than England, she might not be here today.

Going to the camps and the mass graves made me realise the utter devastation. Yet knowing that I can come to see these horrific sights and come out to keep telling the story makes me feel proud. We're still here. 

It is amazing that a nation who is a minority in this world can be so highly discriminated against and so hated. We don’t look any different, we just have a different way of life and it is through ignorance that people don’t realise that. When I was walking back to our hotel on Shabbat (Saturday) a Polish man approached me and asked if I was English. I ignored him and carried on walking, he then said “F*ing Juden,” spat at me, laughed and walked away. I have never experienced anti-Semitism like it. My friend turned to me and asked, “How did they know we were Jewish, we were walking along the same bridge at the same time as they were?” and I replied, “I don’t know and I don’t understand.” Even after everything I have seen in the last week, I cannot understand how some people still are so hateful towards us, especially after so much blood shed.
Majdanek Dec 2007
On my 2nd day in Poland, we travelled to Auschwitz. I thought that when I got there I would feel such anger and emotion that I wouldn’t be able to walk through. I found that the whole sight was too much to comprehend and I didn’t feel anything other than, absolutely freezing. I felt guilty for feeling nothing other than cold. I felt angry with myself for feeling cold because, I was wearing 5 layers of clothing and all people had, all those years ago was a thin pair of striped pyjamas. Yet Auschwitz really hit me 2 days later we went to a place called Zebilitovaska Goura. We arrived at what looked like a forest covered in 3 inches of snow. My teacher didn’t tell us until we were standing in the forest that we were standing on a mass grave of 10,000 people of which 800 were children. At the sound of that comment I burst into tears and began to panic. The thought of people’s bones and ashes beneath my feet was terrifying. I felt so sick and I couldn’t understand how one man could do this to another just for their religion. When we got to the children’s part of the grave I found it too hard to stay. All my teachers were crying and most of my friends were as well. We realised that as 16 year olds we still haven’t fulfilled our potential in life at all, the hardest obstacle most of us have faced in our lives was passing our GCSE’s, these children, didn’t get a chance to live or fulfil their potential. Going to this grave site put everything into perspective. It made me realise how lucky I am that I can live my life without the fear of being persecuted for no reason.
Zebilitovaska Goura
Yet if people think that genocide doesn’t exist anymore, they are wrong. All over the world minorities are being discriminated against. Prejudice still occurs. Hitler influenced the minds of millions. One mans power and ideas can go a long way. This shows me that if Hitler can influence millions to do bad and to commit mass murder, then maybe one person now could influence the world to do good.

A message from me today.
There is a lot of hate in the world right now, we need to do better. Our identity is something that makes us unique but should not be used as a tool to cause division.
My Grandma isn’t with us anymore, a lot of that generation aren’t with us anymore. It has never been more important to keep talking about what happened.


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