Surviving Auschwitz

I didn’t want to go to Auschwitz. In fact, I had been dreading the trip to the concentration camp since I knew I was going to be in Europe. Maybe “didn’t want to go” is not accurate. I wanted to go … but knew it would be an experience that would be achingly painful.

As a child being raised Jewish, I was fortunate enough to meet many survivors of the Holocaust. And, as former actress, I was fortunate enough to have a part in a play “Who Will Carry the Word?” that dealt with 20 women attempting to survive in Auschwitz. Between being Jewish and being in a play about the Holocaust, I had learned a lot.

I knew going in to Auschwitz how bad it was there. I knew what to expect. And yet, after I watched the short film they show at the beginning of the tour of the camp, when the doors to the camp were opened and I saw the “Arbeit Macht Frei” metal sign above the entrance, my eyes and nose stung with salty tears.

Man, this tour was going to get me.

“Are you OK?” Stephan, a Scottish guy I had met the night before at Tutti Frutti, asked me, placing his hand on my arm after we exited the gas chamber in Auschwitz.

“Yeah,” I said. It was only then, when the “yeah” came out choked and strained that I realized I was far from OK.

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Being Jewish in the Krakow Jewish District

On my second full day in Krakow, I decided to do my walkabout. I knew there were places I wanted to go — mostly the locations on the map marked with a Jewish star, also known as the Jewish District.

I know Poland is seeped with a terrible history as it relates to Jews (and many other religions, cultures, etc.), and it makes my heart heavy to think that such a beautiful place has such sad stories behind it.

The Jewish District is one of those places. Lined with kosher and Jewish restaurants and shops, the area oozes charm, personality and beauty.

And, then there is the darker side. The side that hurts me and makes my chest feel tight.

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