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Wednesday, August 10, 2005



In my circle I’m the only one feeling this way, so I’m hoping to find a like-minded person among my readers.

There are no words sad enough and adequately tragic to describe the horror that was the Holocaust.
Pretending it didn’t exist would be foolish, hurtful to those who lived through it and grossly disrespectful to its countless victims.

Since I was a child there was always talk about it and around it.
My mother used to bring books from the library for me to read about it.
50 % of the Artscroll and Feldheim catalogs contain Holocaust stories (some really interesting).

Rebbeim often referred to it and it was a large part of the history lessons year after year.
Movies on the subject are made by the dozen, so many in fact I find it tasteless. Books written about it wouldn’t fit in the largest library in the world; and many countries have museums and shrines devoted to it.

Before I continue I’d like to emphasize that I’m not against being taught about it, reading about it, or even watching movies relating to the war.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t be told about it at all and that children shouldn’t be taught.
But I am troubled by something.

In recent years it has become common to travel to Poland, or other places where all the horror took place.
My wife, before we were married was on such a trip.
I feel this is a bad idea.
When asking people who visited such places about their experience, the answer is invariably, “it’s an experience one should have“
They rarely have anything to add.
It sounds like an indoctrinated answer, as literally everyone who returns from such a place will answer those exact words.
Those who organize these trips advertise it as a once in a lifetime experience and a spiritual journey but I don’t buy that.

The truth is most people resume their normal lives the second they’re in the bus back to the airport. And I have yet to meet someone who was inspired enough to turn his/her life around.

My grand-mother unfortunately was there 60 years ago, and had she had the choice I’m positive she would have chosen not to be there.
So isn’t it crazy to send our kids voluntarily to that place where so many Jews were cruelly murdered.
When I advance my arguments, people answer that the next generation needs to “know”.
I say yes of course they do, but they know, they hear, they read, they see, what’s next? “Spend a day in a concentration camp”? “
It’s so sad that the Holocaust had to happen; it’s tragic that nothing has been learned from it, it’s ridiculous that non-survivors make tons of money on merchandising (yes it exists!) and holocaust related stuff.
Baruch H’Ashem the Holocaust is over; the new generation is privileged and blessed to be living in free countries with actual civil rights.
Why do kids need to be confronted with what happened non-stop.
It should be taught, visiting a museum is instructive but going to a concentration camp and inundating the kids with information and images is wrong.
They don’t have to know all the gruesome details; it only serves to create nightmares and subconscious fear.
The Jews were punished enough during the Holocaust, why should the new generation be punished again?

Hi Prag,

I agree with what you are saying. There is something crude and distant and exploitative about people sent on a tour to "where it happened."

I went to Anne Frank's house when I was in Amsterdam. I had backpacked through Europe and in the three weeks I bummed around, this was the most important part of my trip on an emotional level.

However, that was a choice I made, to see it, and I really did not expect to have the feelings that came over me.

The tours that are put together seem crude to me because they are one stop on a pleasure/educational vacation. Who knows what the tourists were sent to before or after the camps...lunch?

Also, the idea that it's something that one "should" do makes it sound almost as if it's going to be unpleasant, but that as survivors we have the obligation to endure what pain we can.

I've gone shopping many times to Century 21 department store which happens to be directly across the street from where the Twin Towers were---now a large empty lot.

It is very difficult to look at that large empty lot, and I wouldn't take a tour to stop and see it, although if I was a person not living in NY and was here to visit, I may go there to see it for personal reasons.

I think everybody's got to choose to do what's right for them, but the commercial end of the tour reminds me of going to that store several months after nine eleven and seeing people selling books and Tshirts about our tragic event.
A few weeks ago I was googling for pics and put in the words "Jewish boy". Almost all the pics I got were of the holocaust, one was of a Jewish boy starved to death in the Warsaw ghetto, and most of the others were other horrific pics from the holocaust that I'd never seen before. (Until then, I naively thought I had seen them all). I was deeply, deeply disturbed by the pictures, (one in particular stands out in my mind. I'm sure it's an image I'll never forget.) So I went to my husband and told him how disturbed I was and asked him "Am I SUPPOSED to look at them? Do I have an obligation to? I feel like if they actually had to go through it, the least I can do is look at pictures of it." and my husband answered me. "It's bad enough they had to go through it, why should you have to look at pictures of it?"
You raise, lulei demistafina, an important point. Rabbi Berel Wein, shlit"a, recently second-guessed all the touring of Eastern Europe that Jews are doing. I say, it's important--but it can't be so overpowering.

The bottom line is, "What will inspire you to be a better Jew?" And I don't think this is the way to do it.

We need to stress the positive. Mamme's "Jewish Boy" search says it all.

Great post.
breindel- Thanks for complementing my thoughts.
You raise a few very valid points.
I think that the Anne Frank house is different as it’s more the story of a troubled family as opposed to a place that carries the ashes of thousand of Jews.

YM-that is what infuriates me so!! about this whole attitude in general. Why would you say” I feel like if they actually had to go through it, the least I can do is look at pictures of it
What good would it do to make yourself sick and sad bout it? We have Tisha Be’Ov and Yom H’aShoah to commemorate tragic events.
Your husband is very wise obviously; the new generation did need not be punished for what happened. It just needs to realize how lucky we are to have been born after!
How disconcerting that googling “Jewish boy” cannot bring other results, as if there’s nothing to tell about Jewish boys besides that many were brutally murdered.

Cloojew- It feels good to know such a Respected Rabbi agrees with me
Thanks for the info.
hello prag. saw some of your comments on several other sites so i thought that i would just drop by to say boker tov (not bad for an irish-catholic kid). i read your post with great interest, it think it was Santayana who said, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." sadly we seem to forget all too often. i have not been to the sites in europe, but i think a similar experience can be had standing on the battlefield at gettysburg. regardless of any of the commercial exploitation (and you can't seem to get away from it) something comes over you when you realize the number of men who made the ultimate sacrifice at that place, giving their lives so that others could have freedom.
it is a truly moving experience...for a brief moment you can almost feel their presence. i'm sure the feeling would be much more intense at one of the camp sites. there are places even today where genocide continues. we need to remember and sometimes we need to be reminded...someday perhaps everyone will remember and it will never happen again.
My yeshiva in Israel has a lot of guys that go on a tour called "Hertiage" that takes guys through the concentration camps and the old ghettos.
It is very hard to pinpoint exactly where an experiance will increase or decrease a person's role fulfillment. Who knows how or exactly in what area an expriance can inspire.
All i know is that it makes logical sense that this experiance does insipre, and does improve life.
There are many lessons to be learned from the holocaust, being there, living through the pain, is a very Jewish thing. We Jews have suffered throughout the genrations.
The Rambam writes that these sorts of feelings, if properly internalaized will inspire us into teshuva.
How many inspirations have you let pass you by? Just because this specific one may not have caught, it might have for others.
I need to make a correction here. Since the main point of my comment wasn't about my google search, I didn't double check the info (as I would normally do) even though I didn't remember the details of it so clearly. So after I saw that it inadvertantly became the main point, I went back and did the same google search and got many pictures of jewish boys and only some from the holocaust. I realized that I must have clicked on one of the pictures and then was taken to a website about the holocaust where there were many other pictures. Just wanted to clear that up.
I asked my grandfather who went through the holocaust if he wants me to learn about what happened: to read the books, go to the sites, watch the movies. And he said that all he wants is that I should tell the stories over to my children and that they should to theirs. But we shouldn't dwell on it. He didn't put all that effort into surviving in order to have children and grandchildren who were held back in life because of the horrors he went through.
like breindel, i also backpacked through (mostly eastern) europe. i did get to the anne frank house as well, but i purposely went to poland, hungary, the czech republic, and germany to learn a bit more. i visited many camps, but ended up cutting my stay short after seeing auschwitz. i quickly packed my pack and hightailed back to holland. i just couldn't take it anymore. originally i had planned to do some research in poland and hoped to find traces of my family history, but i was getting so depressed that the guy who is now my husband was telling me over the phone, "get out of there! there are too many ghosts!" now, i did this all on my own, from working through college to pay for this trip, to going myself to learn, and honestly, the whole experience was extremely heavy. would going on a tour have been better? yes and no, first off, i hate tours, so no, i would never have gone for that, but the truth is, when you're on a tour, experiencing these sights with other people, there is support. there are some people who NEED to see where it happened. but you ask if it's necessary to send our kids there to see. i don't think so. my parents and grandparents thought i was crazy for going on my own, and crazier for going at all. i don't think a kid needs to go there. maybe if parents who are going to spend their money to send their teenagers off on this experience would save it and send them to spend more time in israel, everyone would be better off.
I have thought alot about this post.

Myself for one person would like to disagree with you.

I don't agree that an industry has been created. Noem Comsky, a profesor at Harvard or whatever, and a smarter man than me would not agree.

I am of course a Jewish Mother and a child of one who survived the bombings of London.

This was a real thing. I would hate for my two little girls to see the camps.

How it would brake my heart.

But maybe we must all look at this and see the truth.

I don't know. As I said, I am not an expert. But in my heart I believe what is true is a must see.
Just look around us at the world, everywhere we look we see people trying to forget what happened.

Its not just about us not forgetting what happened for the sake of the people who died, its about remembering so that it will never happen again, not to us Jews, and nor to any other nation.

Not for nothing were all of the kinusis written to be recited on the 9th of av. Showing the younger gen what type of world there is out there is the best defense against it happaning again.

Vihachy yiten el libo, we can never forget.
YM-thanks for the clarification

Bec-it's really nice to hear someone whio agrees, especially somleone who's actually done it

Callie-it’s not because someone is smarter than you, that you cant' have a different opinion

The real me-what you're writing is THE big argument to defend the problem I’m writing about.
Unfortunately I don't believe talking about it incessantly is any guarantee it won't happen again, despite the millions of book and museums, anti semitism is still thriving, especially in Europe.
okay, my turn...
on the flip side of the coin, i think i perhaps obsess too much about the Holocaust and i don't think my soul could rest until i actually go to aushwitz (and treblinka, and dachau, and thereisenstadt, and so on).i need to understand why that happened and i think i need to cry about it. a great big cry. i need to go there to do it.
i've watched movies about it and i've read books about it. i've even just thought about it with no prompting and withered into a blubbering mess. but not coming from a religious home, part of what keeps me connected to Judaism, aside from clinging to Hashem, is my passion for my fellow Jews and nothing ignites my soul quite the way tales of the Holocaust does (to paraphrase Yaffa Eliach). it reminds me that i'm Jewish, what my purpose is in life, and i think about it every day. every day i try to do something meaningful for the jewish people, whether it's saying a brocha (which i wasn't raised to do), or educating someone who was previously unknowledgable about israel...those jewish souls that were extinguished, i feel, are inside of me giving me reason and purpose for being. but that's just how i feel and my feelings are quite alive and unto myself--i was not indoctrinated because i feel compelled to teach myself. to make myself understand.
What a loaded topic!
So Prag you bring up many good points as to why it isnt necessary for Jews and the younger generation to make the trip back to Poland, back to the camps.

When I was 18 I went to Poland on a tour during my seminary year. As a child I had dreams of hitler talking to me, asking me questions in the camp s and therefor i was hugely apprhensive...I wasnt sure if I realy wanted to go to the very site where it all happened - to have the exactly places ingrained in my memory.

I went. And I dont regret it. For 5 days we toured Poland, went thru the ghettos, camps and old shules. It wasnt just the information I accumulated or the number of places I ticked off the 'Holocaust List' - but the feeling.

To stand in a gas chamber in Auschwitz - Berkenau, to see the scratches in the cement walls that our ancestors scratched in desperation as they were being gassed, is a life changing experience.

To see the mass graves, the vandalized cemetaries, the kvarim of so many great Rabbonim, the beautifully decorated shules and yeshivas gave me personally an insight to just how wonderfully rich Jewish life was before the Holocaust - the underlay of beginning to grasp what was actualy destroyed and murdered.

After 6 heavily loaded days we got on a plane back to Israel. Straight from Ben Gurion Airport we went to the Kotel. With renewed emunah I davened, hard. That, I will never forget.
hi, i got your post off my cousin's site-->"standing here screaming"

i just went on the march of the living. in case you don't know what it is it's a two week program the first week is spent in poland visiting concentarion camps and ghettos and the second week is spent in Israel.

i didn't go because i wanted to "spend a day in a concentarion camp" [[and i agree with you, it is a horrible place]] I went because although i am growing up in a generation privledged to have surrvivors around, as i get older i get less privleged because the surrvivors are all passing away. Sometime very soon children will grow up without holocaust surrvivors. I want to be able to pass their stories along so we will never forget and of course it won't be repeated. You get a much better understanding of the horrors when your standing in a chilly barrack in april and imagining how cold it must've been in the winter. You get a better understanding while you're standing in one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland. A cemetery that's more of a forest than a cemetery. You get a better understanding when you're standing in a cold damp gas chamber in Majdanek. A camp that can be up and running in less than 48 hours.

Going on this trip I was a partisan.
And that's why I went on this trip to make sure I never forget. [[not that I would]] To make sure people I know won't forget. To make sure people around me don't forget.
And that's so so important.
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