Friday, November 20, 2009

Best of Times, Blurst of Times

Stupid monkey!

Well – as it turns out, Nick and Stew do not have to grab their flight at one. Nope, their flight doesn't leave until four (they're in the air as I write this – everything going well.) This meant they didn't have to grab the train to the airport until one, which left more than enough (well – ok – JUST enough) time to go down and check out the Holocaust Memorial.

The only thing of note we passed along the way? A man who sold sausages cooked on a Bar-B-Que that he wore. Honestly - that much fuel strapped onto your back, with flames spitting out your front? Probably not safe - but still, the giant sausage was delicious, and a bargain at just one euro twenty.

Underneath the monoliths there was a compound full of photographs, stories, and pictures. This is by far the best holocaust memorial I have seen. There was one room with letters from victims tossed from boxcars, found in the camps, or smuggled out. One that hit me hard was by a twelve year old girl. Reading it, I had to sit down and recompose. It never ceases to amaze me that though you think you've heard and seen it all, the human element can still strike you down. It read:

31 July 1942,
Dear father! I am saying goodbye to you before I die. We would so love to live, but they won't let us, and we will die. I am so scared of this death, because the small children are thrown alive into the pit. Goodbye forever. I kiss you tenderly.
Your J. [twelve year old Judith Wischnjatskaja]

Transcribing it now, it's still hard to read. How do you see that, and try to identify with this girl, so sure of her fate – which ultimately became reality? How do you accept that this happened not to one person, but to millions? For every letter on the ground, there were thousands more, every face on the wall, millions.

This was, by far, a more powerful experience than Auschwitz. This was real. This was human. This was personal. Rather than concerning oneself with numbers, and masses, this memorial hit home by its specific focus, and intensity. Sometimes one is stronger than one hundred.

After exiting the museum, I wound my way through the memorial above ground once more. The more time I spend there the more I appreciate it, enjoy it, and want to spend time there. I may return some days from now.

From there it was a quick rush back to the hostel (detours for graffiti shots) so Stew and Nick could pick up their bags, hop on the underground, and head off to Manchester. And that as that. I'm travelling solo once more.

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