A Holocaust Story

A Chance to Remember

by Sarah Greene

As I stepped closer to the abandoned camp I began to feel more and more unwelcomed. The cold wind was whipping my face so much that it hurt, but that was the least of my worries at the moment. Just 70 years ago I had been kept in this very camp, tortured and starved. Just 70 years ago I watched my whole family die. Just 70 years ago I escaped the malevolent clutches of the Nazi soldiers. I tried to tell myself to not think about what happened in the past, it isn’t 1944 anymore, but sometimes I can’t help but dwell on the unthinkable things that were done to me.

Then, I found myself standing before the looming gate that marked the entrance to the camp. I stopped in my tracks, my eyes fixed on the tall, metal structure. I could feel the rocks under my shoes as I stood, stationary, not even moving a muscle. Then, after a few minutes of just staring
blankly at the tall gateway, the old memories broke free. They hit me like a tsunami, waves of remembrance crashing into me. I even stepped back slightly, moving over to the railing beside me for support. I couldn’t take it, but the memories kept coming and they hit me hard.

It almost felt as if I had gone back in time, the memories were so strong. For a moment I was looking deep into the cold, heartless eyes of a Nazi soldier. I wondered how someone’s expression could be so full of lethal hatred, I would reminisce on how someone could contain so much sadistic loathing for the Jewish people and culture. In another memory I locked eyes with a young girl, about the age of seven; she was being dragged by a soldier. He had her dark hair fisted in his harsh grip. She had begged me to help her, just by the look in her eyes, but I couldn’t do anything. I’ve never felt more useless in my life.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath before opening them again. I was still staring at the entrance. I let go of the railing and with shaking hands, I slowly walked under the gate. I shoved my hands in my pockets to keep them from shaking, and moved forward one step at a time. Every item in the abandoned camp ripped open another wound, brought back old memories I thought I had forgotten by now. Looking at the old gas chambers, barbed wire fences, metal bars, made me come to the realization that I would never forget what was done to me, along with millions of other Jews. Despite my old age, these horrific images will never leave my mind. I’ve endured the unthinkable, and that would never be erased.

I sat down on the nearest metal bench, wiping the tears that had fallen from my eyes and onto my clothing. Throughout all these years I had always tried to swallow all of my memories of this place down, but I think that made it worse. Now, just sitting here and letting those pent up feelings out I felt relieved in a way. It felt as if I had let a great weight off my shoulders. I exhaled heavily. Although, It was hard to feel the memories that I thought I had put behind me, I was grateful that I had this chance to grieve, this chance to let go.

This story was chosen to be read during the Yom Hashoah 2015 remembrance of the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Sarah Frances is an 8th grade student at St. Mary’s school and a member of All Saints.