Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What is Living?

After touring around Lodz we headed to another town called Czestochowa where Chaim surprised us with a special visit that I’m not sure the other buses got to see. Chaim knew about this bunker in town that one could still see and still visit. It was a place where people tried to hide before they were finally deported to a death camp. It was down several winding stairs that lead into a damp, deep, dark dungeon like room that I’m sure was filled with mold and mildew. This wouldn’t have been quite the observation, other than the fact that I have been struggling to NOT get a sinus infection and all that. I’ve had to be very diligent about taking vitamin C and decongestants etc and so I can’t even imagine living in this whole with 27 other people for 4 months. If they coughed, or if the baby cried, they would have been ratted out and being sick and coughing a lot, I surely would have been the reason 26 other people would have been found out and sent to their deaths. Twenty-seven people lived in this whole that was no bigger than 8 by 4 feet with a small partition in the middle. They lived there for 4 months before they were discovered. It was so dark and cramped that they couldn’t even light a candle because there wasn’t enough oxygen for both the candle and the people trying to live there. They would come out at night in a courtyard where they could breath and stretch out a bit, although I’m confident they probably still didn’t talk much for fear of being discovered. A certain gentleman would bring them food every 3 days, but it was very limited as the “outside” was very strict and limited and it would be quite obvious that you were taking extra food for 27 other people. He was eventually caught and so one of the younger women in the group, who also had a baby took over his job. She had to leave her child everyday and go seek out food and such for the other people that would care for it while she was gone. One night when they were in the courtyard a neighbor heard the baby cry and they were ratted out. Only the mother didn’t know, so she came back to find that her child and all the 25 other people had been taken. I just can’t even imagine. I mean, I guess I can fathom hiding for a few days or a few weeks, but after a while, don’t you start to wonder what you are hiding for? Don’t you start to wonder if it will ever get better? Say you survive until the Nazis are no longer in power – when this happens, you will still have no family left, no home, and chances are Poland would still be very anti-Semitic and you would still be in danger. But who’s to say that you would even survive in the bunker that long anyway – how long would it take? Would you have to live that kind of life for days? For weeks? For months? For years? Is that really living? Does that constitute a life? Living in a hole and then coming out at night so you can breath? Sometimes I would like to think I would have had enough in me to try and survive, to be a strong person, and to have faith that something better was there to come, but at the same time…. Sometimes I’m just really not sure.

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