Friday, July 23, 2010
5 a.m. Warsaw Marriot Hotel. I have been up for a while,anticipating a 10 hour plus plane ride to DC. I was thinking about the day yesterday and all the days that preceded it. What I felt throughout this trip to Europe- with the exception of Israel- was the absence. It was visiting authentic sites that were leveled, and nothing remains but memorials, albeit ponderous and poignant, nonetheless- there is an emptiness that transcends through these places of pain, suffering and death. The trees have grown taller, the grass has filled in, yet there is an absence. There once was a thriving community of a people who lived, had families, occupations, celebrated holidays, weddings, births and mourned the natural passing of family members. The absence of these people is suffocating and overwhelming: There are no Jews here- they are absent.
What is disconcerting is that anti Semitic graffiti is not unusual to see. I was disturbed by the fact that teachers in Poland have told us that they spend 1 hour on the subject- the subject- the 3 to 5 million people who are absent from their own country, are a one hour lesson. One of our participants-the only African American- has felt his own absence being somewhat of a novelty in this country where I have personally not seen any other Black people other than at this airport.
There also is hope. Hope in the 25 teachers- of all religions and ethnicities, who have made a commitment not to let the faces and memories fade; hope in the wonderful
non Jewish tour guides who are passionate about Jewish History, Roma History, and all the victims of the Holocaust. There is hope in the younger generation who will benefit from all these people who will continue the legacy of Vladka Mead.