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The Krakow Ghetto

Here I sit in the center of the Krakow Ghetto. It’s impossible to convey the reality of what went on here, the horrors unimaginable. A place where “mercy” is a forgotten word. Where cruelty and brutality were commonplace. A place that more than anything has forced us to question humanity. It’s impossible to comprehend the Holocaust. But we must never forget it.

How does it feel that it was my people who were persecuted? That is was my people whose existence was nearly erased? I’ve felt guilty on this trip—while eating at a fancy restaurant, while sleeping in my comfortable hotel room. Yet it’s also reminded me to appreciate what I have: both the small things and the important ones. It’s helped me recognize the essential, long forgotten fact that life in itself is a gift.

Though I bake in the hot sun while writing this, I don’t care. I gaze out at the empty square in front of me and pray for those who were here before. While I cannot comprehend any of it, I feel the importance of coming here, and understand the lessons it is meant to teach. To have the courage to disobey orders if they’re wrong. To refuse to be complacent and indifferent.

It’s painful to go to these places in the world and in our mind, but maybe it’s our obligation. The horrors of the Holocaust are so unbelievable that that is exactly what could happen – they could not be believed. The vast scale of it. The gruesomeness. The efficiency of murder.

The Holocaust has made us question the nature of humanity. As a Jew, I had to come here. But as a human, I had to come too, so I can tell others of all backgrounds. It’s inconceivable that people committed these atrocities, yet they happened, and we, as humans, are responsible. The dangers now are denial and oblivion. We cannot let it happen again. We have to bear witness for the sake of the continuation of our species.

As I close my notebook and walk through the square, I feel a heaviness, a deep sorrow, a profound sense of guilt. But as odd as it sounds, and though I cannot grasp exactly why, there is nowhere I’d rather be.

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© 2015 by Jonah Kruvant