Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Amelia has dolls like these: plaid dresses and curly heads of hair.  She carries them around our house while I complain about the weather, or my bad hair day, or the lack of stations on our Swiss television set.  I assume my life could be easier inside my warm, heated walls. 

Amelia has shoes like these: buckles and shoelaces to fit her chubby, small feet .  She wears them while we dine at fancy restaurants and while she giggles at the park.  "Pwetty shoes," she calls them.

Our village has chimneys like these.  Brick chambers releasing the lingering smoke and laughter of a late evening of red wine by the fireplace, white fog ascending to the heavens while we sleep in our large, warm beds. 

Our country has railroads like these: endless tracks delivering us safely to the next village. Or the park or theatre, perhaps. "Choo, choo," shouts Amelia as the train leaves the station. I smile out the square window and comment on the weather. 

Such simple, mundane things.  A curly-headed doll.  A small pair of shoes.  A brick chimney and a solitary railroad track.  I close my eyes and wish to forget.

There is a haunting sort of calm I will never be able to put into words; a sense of quiet dread that makes the tiniest hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention.  I felt it as I trudged through the rock and mud and ashes of Auschwitz. A tangible evil.

 I feel it now as I sit in my own home. 
Did humanity cease to exist inside those barbed wire fences?  Were the Nazis born without conscience, or did they exterminate their souls alongside the children in tiny shoes? 

Our nation starts riots and protests and the world mourns over the loss of a single tragic death, but where are the sobs and the outcries for the millions who left this world in ashen smoke?  Perhaps we can't comprehend the number.  Perhaps we are too far removed. 

Friends asked me why I wished to walk the grounds of Auschwitz. Morbid, they called me. What good would it do?

I am unsure the reason, myself.  Maybe I have sought asylum in my safe, opulent world for far too long.  Maybe I need the heaviest of reminders that even on my worst, and sickest, and saddest of days, I have been blessed too abundantly to utter a word of complaint.  Maybe I needed to see it to actually conceive it.  Maybe I just truly wanted to feel. 

I awoke New Year's Day to empty champagne glasses and the clearest of skies, yet I felt joyless and hollow as I glanced out the window at the quaint cottage across the way.  Its small brick chimney carried smoke into the perfect Swiss sunrise,  and I was overcome by nausea. 

I wish not to go back to my life before I walked the grounds of such horror.  I wish to remember the rubble of the destroyed crematoriums, and in all the anguish and destruction, I wish never to forget the voiceless generations whose lives were snuffed out by ignorance and hatred. The frightened children.  The emaciated mothers.  The starving, beaten men. 

I find myself rereading this over and over, but nothing I have written bears semblance to what I have seen; nothing to what I have felt.  It seems I cannot find the words.  

Perhaps there are too many.

Perhaps there are none.