Forgotten places

On Sunday, we got on the bus at he hostel on our way to visit Majdanek (My-don-neck). How many people have actually heard the name before? I never have before this trip. I thought because we were getting on a bus that we would be traveling pretty far to get there, but to my surprise it is literally on the edge of the city. Think of sitting on your patio and looking out at arguably the best preserved death camp from WWII. It killed 150,000 people. Look it up. It probably won’t say 150,000 on Wikipedia because officially Poland says it’s less. So why are they trying to cover it up? Our tour guide, Magda, is actually quite outspoken in Lublin when it comes to Jews and the holocaust. Totally different from our last guide (who was also good) that was so pro-Poland. Now Lublin is a lot smaller than Kraków and that’s obvious, but you can subtly tell in places all over the city that people are very anti-Semitic. There are zero Jews living there today. Before the war there was 50,000. Completely gone. Parking lots cover what used to be a thriving parts of the Jewish community and shopping malls sit on top of death sites with only plaques to remember the innocent people killed there. It really makes you wonder how bad the relationship between Poles and Jews was 70 years ago. Magda talks about how slurs are thrown around in schools and around the city, directed at her, and she’s not even Jewish. She keeps on going though, with programs to remember the people that used to live here. One of the unexpected plans for the day happened after she suggested we travel an extra half hour or so from where we were going and visit Belzec (Bell-zech). Bet you never heard of that one either and for good reason, there was only two survivors. The camp was completely destroyed. Not by liberators but by the Nazis themselves. They needed to destroy the evidence. Now this place is different than Auschwitz and Majdanek, which were both death camps and concentration camps. Belzec was a pure death camp. People were only brought there for the sole purpose of extermination. 500,000 human beings. Shipped in by rail, gased, and burned. They rebuilt a replica of a chamber and we were told to go in one at a time to see it. Most people didn’t last more than 15 seconds. You couldn’t hear anything but the large door shutting behind you and echoing through the huge concrete chamber. The last thing these innocent people ever heard. Something like this should never be forgotten.

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