By Lloyd Graff

Majdanek concentration camp is within the city of Lublin, Poland.

Yesterday, April 16, was the day Jews call Yom Ha’Shoah, the day to remember the Holocaust.

The Holocaust has shaped my life, which may sound odd for an American born in Chicago who never lived through the horror. My parents did not experience it either, and we never talked about it at home.

But I became emotionally involved with the horrific killing of Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals and political complainers by the Nazis in high school, from movies, books and television. I internalized the images of bodies piled up like cordwood and emaciated living corpses in striped uniforms walking around bedazed. When I could bare it I imagined myself walking into the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

I had thought of going on a concentration camp tour, yet I could never find the stomach to do it, but in 1999 my wife Risa and a friend had the opportunity to go to Poland with a sophisticated guide. I engineered a business trip to Europe and caught up with them the day before they were going to Lublin, the site of the Majdanek camp.

We rode the chartered bus through the snowy countryside. We arrived at Majdanek around 6pm. It was empty. We were the only ones there other than the caretaker.

All the folks on the bus walked into the “welcoming” room, but I lingered outside. I took off my winter coat, sweater and shirt because I wanted to feel the icy cold chill in my bones. Then I put my garments back on and joined the others.

I read the signatures on the roster. The Nazis kept proper records. There were bunk beds of sorts for the inmates. Men and women were separated in each building. The building was clean, but I tried to imagine what it must have been like filled with people waiting to be killed.

Then I walked alone into the shower room where the gas had once wafted in to quietly exterminate the captives 70 years ago. I looked up at the showerheads. I tried to imagine what it was like, but how do you imitate terror? You feel it or you don’t. It was one-dimensional, derivative horror for me, nothing like the real thing.

I paused for a couple minutes to absorb my feelings, and then I walked out. My 45 minutes of Majdanek were over. I left the building, walked to the bus and saw that the camp was right in the midst of the city of Lublin. I had thought the concentration camps were in the country, hidden away, but Majdanek was right in the city neighborhood. And they say nobody knew what was happening.

We left Majdanek and headed for a hotel and dinner an hour away. We ate little and slept little under the covers.

Today, I remember my concentration camp experience. I mentally return to it on days of remembrance like Yom Ha’Shoah, but I don’t dwell on it. I never lived it. I can only occasionally grasp at a distant synthetic horror.

Most of the survivors are dead now. Europe’s Jews are going through another siege of anti-Semitism, fueled by Muslim hatred and indifference by the general population. The cover story in this month’s Atlantic magazine is a brilliant and terrifying piece entitled “Is it Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” by Jeffery Goldberg.

I read the article and I couldn’t sleep all night. Seventy years after Auschwitz, and Jews are still being killed in schools and supermarkets.

Why do they stay? Have they forgotten?

I cannot.

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16 thoughts on “Rememberance

  1. David Krimm

    What about 100 million Russians killed between 1915 and 1945? What about 1 million Rwandans killed in the 90’s? What about 100 million native Americans killed by white man’s diseases after 1492? If I see another “poor Jew” movie, I think I’m gonna puke. And being of part Jewish ancestry, I can say that freely. Humans seem to think that reproductive discipline should apply to every species on the planet – except for humans, which is a biologically ridiculous assumption. When we fight Mother Nature, Mother Nature always wins, one way or another. This will most certainly happen again in some other form. Deal with it.

    1. Rod

      What about, what about, what about…. Listing other great tragedies throughout mankind’s existence does nothing to excuse them and it does not lessen the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. The tragedies you mention, the Holocaust included, point to the sinful nature of man in it’s lowest form (with possible exception to the Native Americans which some might consider an accident while still others might say it was greed), not mother nature. 2 Chronicles 7:14 – if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

  2. Dan Trick

    Turn to Saint Pope John Paul II writings, he did live amongst and through all of what happened during those times. He was effected expotentially by those events, and the culture that is still in existance and certainly could be seen as spreading. Unless we see each other as “Sons of God” or see the face of “Christ” in each other, the dignity of the Human being is at jeopardy. Those people suffering today are called Martyrs.

  3. Brian

    I have read many books about the concentration camps and the horrows. Remember, it was not only party members of the National Socialist party (nazis) but common or garden Germans that ran these places of extermination. Let us just say the truth.
    Anyway, a lot of Christians are praying for Israel. Iran does not and never will need nuclear power! Except to make weapons.

  4. Randy

    Wow, not sure how to process that last rant. Lloyd I was 16 yrs old and riding a bike through Europe in 1971 with my 18 year old brother when I first visited Daucau. I had not even studied European history at that point to where the horrors of the holocaust were something I knew anything about. It did mean something to my brother though who was beginning his own spiritual journey that lead him to a life of missionary work in places like Papua New Guinea. I later learned of the process through movies, school and other readings and discussions as I got older. It was some 20 years later that I went back with my wife and kids on a vacation and wanted to revisit. It had a much different impression on me, I’m not Jewish, no Jewish heritage but as a human the shock of how other humans can treat people disturbs me greatly. I am a Christian and understand that legislating morality is something that realistically can’t override a sin nature common to us all. But I know that over the last 6 years my wife and I have been keenly influence by the tragedies in Uganda and the child soldiers and thousands and thousands of orphans left as a result of ethnic cleansing and brutalities. We have been supporters financially and physically, visiting and working at an orphanage and school for some of these orphaned children.

    Will these tragedies continue, yes unfortunately my faith teaches that because of a fallen human nature they will. The phrase “deal with it” unfortunately is a just the kind of thinking that allows these types of things to openly repeat. Governments cover them up, in some ways the changes of an internet society make getting the word out about them much faster and wider broadcast, but unfortunately the “internet speed of life” also provides the next distraction so quickly that people are not moved to their cores. I think that the Jewish community has played a vital role in remembering and trying to keep in the forefront such a tragedy in hopes that people of conscious will in fact step up and challenge each and every such action of disgrace in every forthcoming generation.

    Thanks for remembering!

  5. Ken

    I studied the camps as a boy and felt the horror. I’ve met a few Jewish folks and one who has a number on her arm. She has a museum in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is a must see museum in my opinion.
    For me, a Christian, I see martyrs globally every year. They say up to 300,000 annually for religious martyrdom is occurring now and has been for many years. Yes, even now.
    Syria and Iraq is a place we see this occurring now on the news but it’s been happening all over the globe even in this day and age.
    We must learn from the past, respect life including the unborn, embrace the message of Love that Jesus taught, respect the fact that all men are created in God’s image.
    If we choose to not respect God and His Word and embrace humanism or evolution then what Hitler did was perfectly normal. Survival of the fittest is what he basically wanted to push upon mankind. What is wrong with that message if there is no God?
    I embrace God and the teachings of Jesus therefore I cannot embrace survival of the fittest, abortion, or evolution.
    Can’t embrace one position without the other. I choose LIFE!
    Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    1. David

      Please be careful of generalities. Hitler was a national socialist or fascist. The nazi’s used “social-darwinism” or survival of the fitest to try to give a scientific basis to their racist theories. Fortunately it has nothing to do with Darwin, evolution and has no basis in science. You may not believe in evolution, this is your right…but if facism is based in science we are all in big trouble.

      “They” say their are 300,000 religious (i assume you mean christians) martyrs every year. Who are they? The Holocaust was one of many horrors in modern history, but it is important to recognize it as a specific event. If we assume that humanity routinely and daily commits genocide we dilute the memory of those who died and the significance for human history and progress.

  6. David

    Thank you for reminding us all. Only when we forget do we lose our humanity.

    My wife was born to a young German woman and an US officer stationed in Germany in 1953. Her mother was only in her early teens during the Nazi era, but was scarred by the experience. My wife has struggled her entire life with this part of her heritage. Her grandparents were active Social Democrats before Hitlers rise to power but shrank from all political activity in the face of the threat to their comfortable middle class life. Many friends and acquaintances “disappeared”. Her grandparents and mother never wanted to discuss this chapter of their lives, despite my wifes many attempts to engage them.

    My wife and I have had many discussions about what we would do in their shoes. I would like to believe I could have the courage to resist, but most people didn’t. How do we know?

    Her mother recently passed and we discovered documents that indicate she worked as a translator for the Nuremburg tribunals. We knew that she had been employed by the US military, this is how she met my wifes father. There is no doubt that she “knew”. Yet my wife loved her mother and grandparents deeply. Her father saw horrors in the Pacific as a marine, earning his battlefield commission. He worked in Germany investigating postwar crime. He refused to see his wife and in-laws as anything less than victims. Were they?

    Saying that we should “deal with it” is just another waying of excusing inhumanity. If we accept that this is simply a part of nature we give up any hope of progress. It is only the attempt to understand and really “know” that make life worth living.

  7. Beth

    Am I the only one who remembers this quote?

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Substitute Russians, Rwandans, Christians, blacks, whatever you want. The point is we all have to speak out against injustice and tyranny (bullying) whether it happens across the ocean or in our own back yard. And the only way we will continue to feel the need to do it is if we remember the horrific lessons of the past. Otherwise we will just take the easy path and not speak out.


    World War II was before my time ( fortunately ).
    However, through the years i’ve read history books and
    watched documentarys on television about the holocaust,
    nazis’s communists etc. To this day i still cannot fathom the horror, evil & trickery the jews went through during that time. I never ever ever want to visit a concentration
    camp. I’m from German/ Jewish decent and if I were there
    i too would have been killed by the Nazis Third Reich for
    not being 100% aryan. My next door neighbor’s mother was German ( full blooded) and lived in Munich as the Super Fortess B-51’s attacked her city during the day light
    bombings in 1945. She was a little girl at the time and knew nothing of war and was also totally innocent of what was happening. Her english was broken
    but she told me about the loud drone of thousands of bombers coming from off in the distance to enilate her town and the fear she experienced. She told me how the
    german people were caught up in Hitlers rallies and propaganda techniques and how they believed his every word.The german people thought he was a god. Its sad to
    think that their god could have used his powers to do good for man kind but instead chose evil and in the end
    destroyed his country other countries and millions and millions of innocent people. Fast forward 50 years or so and here we are experiencing more evil from the Bin Ladens and Muslims over race and religion not to mention the Korean
    war & Vietnam.. People must realize we are all gods
    children and we are only here on earth for a very very short time and our time here is only a test before we meet our maker, God chose the jews as his chosen people
    and this is a fact, therefore we must abide by what god wants. Life on earth is brief, heaven is eternity.

    1. Marvin

      Trust in the Lord? He hasn’t done a very good job so far.

      “Monks, be islands unto yourselves,[1] be your own refuge, having no other; let the Dhamma (Truth) be an island and a refuge to you, having no other. Those who are islands unto themselves… should investigate to the very heart of things:[2] ‘What is the source of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair? How do they arise?’ – the Buddha
      from Attadiipaa Sutta: An Island to Oneself

      This brings it back to each one of us being accountable, not praying for someone else to take care of it.

  9. Ariel CHEMLANI

    President Obama
    Do not know history
    Or do not car
    The first step to this type of Iran
    Ayatollah regim was made by president
    Carter .
    The second and most Destructive
    AFETER THEY promise to destroy
    They like to finish HITLER JOB
    It is fantastical brith day present
    To selebrate 70th year of the holocost .

  10. David Krimm

    I think the “Bible thumpers” here are missing the point. Atrocities like this have happened over and over again all throughout human history. And every time, there has been a huge outpouring of emotion during and after each atrocity. If stupid people have one thing in common, it’s that they keep applying the same fixes over and over again, each time expecting something different to happen. This holocaust was nothing more than atrocity number 23,854 followed by outpouring of emotion number 23,854. …”Hey Everybody, I got a great NEW idea! Let’s pick up a Bible and have an outpouring of emotion! ….There – that’ll keep it from happening again.”


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