0

Your Cart is Empty

What I Did While I Was Away

October 09, 2023 3 min read 7 Comments

What I Did While I Was Away

This is the pose of courage and defiance. Chin up as if to say, "You might take my body, but you can't take my spirit." Mieczyslaw was just 28 years old when he was killed.


*I had to write about this in the newsletter.

*It was an honor. 

 

By Ray Glier

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland____There was a selection process, but only at the gates of this hell. Once inside most everyone was picked for doom.

The sorting at the gates was revealed in pictures taken by the Nazis themselves. In a picture of the front gates after another train load of innocents arrived, there in the top right corner of the photograph, is one group of people. You couldn’t see their faces….

…but you could see the tops of their heads. Gray, white.

These were would-be Geezer Jocks. The Nazis didn’t even bother to register older people like they did with younger prisoners. The older people were marched off immediately to be murdered.

I have wanted to come here for decades. I have a trip-wire in my consciousness for unfairness and it sets me off. I had to see this ultimate unfairness up close. 

It wasn’t just the Nazis who did this. There is a map inside the concentration camp showing where in Europe more than a million were brought by train. Jews, and others, came from all over occupied-Europe.

The Germans owned the cruelty of this place, but others shared in it.

I became stuck on The Holocaust way back in the 4th grade. The green history book for class had just a brief mention of this dark history.

Jewish friends who have been here describe it as overwhelming, or simply can’t find words. The piles of hair cut from the deceased. The hill of suitcases left at the gates with names in bold letters on the outside. The child’s lone pair of shoes.

The gas chambers were horror enough, but the courtyard used for the firing squad took your breath away.

One of my boys said, “There are actually people who don’t believe this happened.”

There is a hallway inside a building with women’s pictures on the left and men’s head-and-shoulders photos on the right as you walk down the corridor. Under each photo it lists date of birth, date taken captive, date of death. There wasn’t a graybeard or blue hair among them, that’s how I was certain I would have been sorted for immediate doom. I’m not Jewish, but the Nazis didn’t need much excuse to kill you. If they didn’t like you, it was death. It was all done with impunity.

And, to think, some level of this cruelty continues today around the world.

The commander of the camp, Hoss, was caught and hanged. His gallows still stands near a gas chamber. Too bad they could hang him just once.

They killed carpenters, electricians, and professors. I’m sure there were jocks among them who liked to throw, run, and kick.

In many photos you could see the eyes of defiance. There were looks of hope to survive, but there were stares of courage back at the madmen taking the pictures.

I came here so I could see the courage, but the most important reason to come here is to remember this moment in history and what can happen when good people allow unchecked cruelty.

It was an honor to come here and be in the presence of courage, poise, and sacrifice. 

A pile of shoes from the murdered.

A child's shoes scream, "No mercy."

On his way to the concentration camps, this guy was delivering a message to the Nazis. "You'll pay for this." He was right.


7 Responses

Jonathan Leopold
Jonathan Leopold

October 01, 2023

Thank you, Ray. You have written a beautiful article that captures the horror and depravity of the era. And sadly, neo-nazis march today and proclaim their allegiance to this legacy. We need such reminders as your article, to confront those who glorify an ideology that leads to such atrocities.

Andy Steinfeldt
Andy Steinfeldt

September 30, 2023

Ray, how fabulous that you made such a pilgrimage and shared it with us in such a way that made a poignant subject even more poignant—even to someone well read on the subject! This is a true gift—as are all of your stories in your cherished anthology—which I can’t help but read repeatedly. Thanks profusely for all you do!!

Marge Glier
Marge Glier

September 30, 2023

Ray, Thanks for taking this journey for us all. It is a prescient look at our future society if our children are taught to deny the history of the past as fascism replaces democracy at home, and around the world. As your son noted, “There are actually people who don’t believe this happened”. Your story of, and experience at this historical site, is a testament to the horrifying truth that it did.

Jeff Shiver
Jeff Shiver

September 28, 2023

Ray, Great writing. Heavy message. Thank you!

Barbara Wintroub
Barbara Wintroub

September 25, 2023

Thank you for reporting this. It’s so sad that it’s getting worse today. I went to Dauchau when I did Ironman Germany. Heart breaking.

John Harris
John Harris

September 25, 2023

Beautiful story, Ray. I had a good friend who survived Auschwitz. She would tell her story to anyone anytime. She always had to have a glass of water handy, because whenever she recounted her experience she flashed back on how thirsty she was in the camp. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Pitzer
Michael Pitzer

September 25, 2023

Ray, thank you for so clearly telling the story, the lessons that must be remembered and the need to never let it happen again.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Newsletter

The Powerful Example Of A Guy
The Powerful Example Of A Guy

May 18, 2024 4 min read 3 Comments

Read More
The 75-year old Roller Derby Referee
The 75-year old Roller Derby Referee

May 18, 2024 3 min read 8 Comments

Read More
At 55, She Shows Teenagers, And Us, How It's Done
At 55, She Shows Teenagers, And Us, How It's Done

May 11, 2024 4 min read 3 Comments

Read More