Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Killing the Dead

We visited the Jewish cemetery in Lodz and it was a very surreal experience. The first thing that struck me was the discussion of why the cemetery seemed so overgrown and run down, and why they were relying only on donations to keep up the cemetery. First of all I never realized that there needed to be separate burial grounds for deceased Jews, but I can respect that – but what you don’t realize is that cemeteries in general are kept up by family members and such. I know every at least a couple times a year my family will visit different cemeteries to pay tribute to those who have gone before us, but I never realized that we keep up the cemetery. When we come and take dead flowers out of the tombstones and put new ones in, we are helping. But there just isn’t a Jewish population in Poland, let along in Lodz that would allow for that to happen. Either they were all killed or they have moved, or they don’t even know that they are Jewish – so it’s hard for simple things like the upkeep of a cemetery to keep going. The Nazis came into Polish Jewish cemeteries and continue to kill Jews that were already dead. How is this possible? By defacing the memory of someone who has already died and taking their tombstone to make a road way or in some other way to destroy their memory and to kill them all over again. Today the cemetery is filled with monuments that are in the shape of trees that are cut half way off. They did this for two reasons, one that a monument of a tree wasn’t quite as obvious to the Nazis and wouldn’t necessarily have Hebrew on it and such so that the memory of that person can still be preserved. But also in keeping with the Jewish and Christian idea of the Tree of Life, these trees are cut short because the people they memorialize, their lives were also cut short. New growth comes from a branch on a tree, and the branches were cut off on these monuments to represent the end of new growth in the Jewish community. This was a clear and sadistic plan to wipe out every trace of any Jewish existence in Europe – the Nazis even wanted to kill the dead.

No comments: