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PILGRIMAGE TO AUSCHWITZ-BERKENAU

In 13 History on 2015/06/05 at 12:00 AM

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Sr. Audrey Gerwing (a Catholic Sister of Sion) writes of the experience she and Sr. Marge Zdunich had this summer.

“Marge and I began our pilgrimage to Poland long before we ever left Canada. We spent many hours preparing, reading, talking and discussing what we wanted to see and experience in our time in Poland. All the prep work bore much fruit in the 10 days we were in Poland.

We began in Warsaw where we followed the paths of the Jewish People from the beginning of their life in Poland and ending with the death of over 500,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. There really was NOTHING to see–nothing was left standing; it had all been destroyed by Hitler and his henchmen; not a stone was left upon stone. So we had to do our own investigation and searching. It was like trying to find the needle in the hay stack–only the hay stack had been removed! The Ghetto of 1940 was huge and ran the entire north – south of Warsaw covering over 2.4% of city of Warsaw; small by any modern standards and yet contained over 400,000 Jews. After much walking in and out of small streets, and corners we finally found plaques that revealed some of the important places in the ghetto such as Mila 18, the last stand of the resistance ghetto fighters, the “umshlaplatz” where the Jews were rounded up and put on transports, one synagogue that had been restored since then. And finally we found the old cemetery dating back from the 12 th century. In this cemetery there were many tombs for those who died in the ghetto.

From Warsaw we went to Krakow where we spent 4 days with Sion and then went to Auschwitz and Berkenau the largest death camps during the war. I cannot adequately describe these camps…the electrified fences keeping people in and others out….the hundreds of packed barracks, the smell of which must have been something akin to rotten fish…..the killing walls where prisoners were summarily shot mostly to keep people in fear of even thinking of escaping or rebelling….and yet the rebellion was visible – so visible that the letter ‘B’ on the entrance to A was upside down. We walked for hours and never came to the end of the camps. The second day we were there we did the way of the cross at A-B with a friend of Marge and mine. It was the right way for us to be there – as Christians asking and seeking forgiveness….praying for the women who were martyred there…being crucified just for being Jewish, or Polish or a resister….the largest cemetery in the entire world is here; and for me, in the end, the resurrection came in the form of a gentle breeze that accompanied us along this journey; a gentle breeze that was so refreshing in the heat of the day; a gentle breeze that seemed to say to us: we are the Ruah of God, we are the breathe of God breathing new life into this place. We who have been martyred are with The Holy One forever – this place is not the last word. We finished with saying Kaddish for all those who perished there – Jews and non-Jews.“

 

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Sisters of Sion Dynamic Movement of the Holy Spirit #25

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