October 09, 2023 3 min read 7 Comments
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.
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