October 1st, 2011

I wrote a few days ago that we were headed to visit former concentration camp Westerbork.    When I went- I really didn’t know much about it- other than the fact that it was once a concentration camp during World War II.  That was enough for us to visit- because I believe remembering and honoring those who suffered is important.   (The fact that anyone could say that this time period never existed is beyond my comprehension.) 

I didn’t know what to expect.   This was the first thing that I saw (aside from the building that houses the museum) when I got out of the car.   The sign points to a trail which winds more than a mile through the woods.  

We decided to go to the museum first- and then walk to the former camp.     Walking inside the building and reading about the fact that when the Jews and gypsies (they were sent there because as gypsies they were also seen as a ‘lesser’ race) were sent to Westerbork- they were actually under the impression that all was going to be ok- that they were ‘safe’.     

They tried to give them as a normal life as possible within the camp- they were allowed to play sports, had small parties for birthday’s and such-  all under the guise of keeping everyone calm because this was just a temporary stop before they would be deported to places such as Auschwitz, where more than 100,000 of the people who passed through Camp Westerbork would meet their demise.    Anne Frank herself even spent some time in Westerbork before being transferred to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

The knowledge that this isn’t a Hollywood creation- but something that is a part of history is something that I have an impossible time comprehending.   It reaches in to the depth of my soul and try as I might- I can’t grasp that kind of suffering-  I’m not sure that anyone can- unless you’ve been there.  

As we walked through the woods-  we heard helicopters flying overhead.    There were three or four- all military helicopters and it was a surreal feeling to be walking through the middle of the woods on a gorgeous Indian Summer day towards a place that the source of so much pain and suffering.      I couldn’t help but think about what it would be like if we weren’t free to walk those woods- and that the military were flying overhead looking for us-  and not in the middle of a large excercise (which we found out about later that evening).    It was an extremly unsettling feeling, and yet nothing compared to being plucked from your your home, your life, your family and herded like cattle into the middle of no where, having no idea what lies ahead. 

I pray we never forget and that somehow we can learn from those tragic days- and never repeat them.

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