Phyllis Greenberg Heideman at the March of the Living. (photo credit:Courtesy)
Jerusalem Post, by Phyllis Greenberg Heideman
As I reflect on my first March of the Living, I recall the eerie sensation of slowly walking into Auschwitz and timidly passing under the sign Arbeit Macht Frei… followed by the overwhelming sensation of walking back out. Back and forth I moved in and out of the most infamous of all concentration camps. Freely and defiantly, unlike my ancestors.
With each of the six million lives so brutally taken from the Jewish People during the Holocaust on my mind and in my heart, I think “Hineni… I am here.” I have come to remember you. And I am only one of many who have traveled from far and near to remember the past as together we face the future.
Each year, as I walk among the thousands of March of the Living participants, I remember that first visit and I become increasingly aware of the importance of this journey on the lives of those who touch that soil, who walk those paths and who come to understand the relevance of that time in history to their lives today. (more…)
From the Preface: In April 2006 I traveled to Poland as a participant on a March of the Living tour. Over the course of less than one week I visited the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau, Treblinka and Majdanek, as well as the killing fields of Tikocyn, and sites of the work camp at Placzow and the Warsaw Ghetto.
Walking the distance from Auschwitz to Birkenau as part of a retinue of nine thousand Jewish young people – on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day – was one of the most extraordinary events of my life. The entire week in Poland was both emotionally overwhelming and spiritually inspiring and healing. On one hand I could see the remnants of the torturous depravity of the Nazi extermination machine and only imagine the wretched suffering experienced by millions of Jewish men, women and children. On the other hand, I could feel the ancient resonance of medieval and early modern Ashkenazi Jewish life, and see the continued vibrancy of Judaism in the groups of young Jews who had come to Poland from countries all around the world.
For me personally, the most immediate and effective way to process the intensity of this week long experience was to write poetry, each and every day, usually right on the spot as we traveled through the various concentrations camps and memorial sites in Poland.
Poems of Life and Death is a compilation of poetry and photography emerging from my experience on March of the Living.
Read the poetry: Poems of Life and Death