Friday, July 4, 2008


There were lots of flies. And mosquitoes. Discomfort to be sure. And it is hot standing in the sun listening to Michael Kaftori.

According to our guide, Jonty, we have spent more time in the camp than those brought here for their eventual death. Nothing exists at Sobibar. At least not from the death center. Just flies and mosquitoes. Yet the memorial to this place and what was done is powerful nonetheless.

The Poles do not refer to the Nazis. Rather they call them the Hitlerowskieggo, or Hitlerites. This seems appropriate since the Germans needed the help of locals to make the extermination happen.

Sobibor. More than 260,000 people. . . Jews. . . were murdered here in 11 months. Imagine the entire city of Pittsburgh extinguished in less than a year. It helps put a perspective on the scale of the event. And Sobibor is in the middle of NOWHERE. A hamlet approximately 5 km from the "big" town of Wladowa (current population 14,000) along the Ukrainian border.

And we are standing in the sun on a beautiful day in the middle of nowhere being bitten by flies and mosquitoes listening to Michael tell us about his escape from the Sobibor transport and how he ended up eventually joining the partisans. So maybe the flies aren’t so bad. Maybe we should be bothered.

Our path is short from the train drop off. And it is marked by memorials to those known and unknown who were murdered here. Our path takes us to the first of two memorials. The first is a tribute to the six gas chambers that would ultimately fill the place with a representational statue of those who were murdered.

However this does not compare to the tribute to the tens of thousands murdered. And you walk towards the mound from the monument. And it keeps getting bigger and bigger. And the size is overwhelming. And the mound just gets bigger as you approach. And it is constructed from the ashes of the victims.

I am silent. 


terminaltoy said...

Yes, well there really isn't anything one can say. I notice from the photographs that the memorial is much better maintained than when I saw it in the early 90s...

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Saulman said...

A Letter To Angels

Silent Ones, you announce you are here
with everything so still.
The trees are standing still.
They guard a round gateway-
a meeting place of ash and sky.

The gateway round
like a child's eye
like a mouth that is screaming
like arms encircling
like a hole, emptying
it shakes ash like salt
into the blue, blue sky.

Silent ones, our breath rises
Inhale the white fire between our words
These are spaces you will inhabit now.

We are not fit to speak for you.
We can only breathe in this quiet
absorb the stillness,
strain to hear.

July 3, 2008
Sheila May-Stein