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  • Treblinka. One of the most notorious of the Nazi extermination camps. What would it be like going to this place where on a good day 17,000 people were killed? How could we actually walk around a place that was essentially a cemetery for hundreds of thousands of people? And what would it look like?

    Approaching the site where so many thousands of people died, I thought back to a quotation for Holocaust: A History. The authors state, “Jewish young people, indeed most Jews, were very strong too, but a relentless German death machine was stronger.”* The very existence of Treblinka proves this. While the Jews and many others of the different minorities fought back with everything they could, the Germans, the “death machine” was stronger. And it wasn’t going to stop until it accomplished its goal; thankfully, the allies stepped in before it was entirely too late.

    While those people that stood up against the Germans together are very important, it is also important to not minimize the other Jews and what they went through. And just because they did not fight the Germans with weapons, it does not mean that their existence during the Holocaust was not as important. We need to remember that they all went through something atrocious and that not everyone had the means to fight.

    But overall, no matter what the Jews and other minority groups did, sadly, I do not think that they had a chance. Like the authors say, the German death machine was stronger and there was really no way to compete with it. They were a country all about war and using the most advanced weaponry in order to win at all costs. There was no competition.

    Being there was very interesting because the Nazis were able to completely destroy the entire camp before liberation therefore – nothing is left. All that is there are stones (pictured above) to represent the infamous and horrific railroad that led from Umschlagplatz to the camp and thousands of large stones surrounding a large memorial in the center. So what does that mean for the memory of the camp and the horrors that occurred there? Are the stones and the memorial and the information center enough? What’s really appropriate to memorialize a space like this? How can it be done tastefully but still get the point across that what the Nazis did here was the worst kind of crime imaginable?

    Thinking about these questions in the essentially empty field, another quotation from Patterns of Childhood came to mind. Wolf states, “The ability to remember lies dormant. Still to this day: a feeling of relief, if you’re honest.”** I thought about this statement in particular because while to the visitor it might be a strange experience going to an empty camp, to a survivor, it might be a blessing in disguise. Without the physical evidence of the camp like the barracks, gas chambers and crematoria, it might just be the slightest bit easier to not have to relive everything that had gone on there. But then again, I’m not a survivor of anything traumatic so I really have no idea. I can just imagine not wanting to unwillingly remember what had happened to me if I were in the position.

    The camp is absolutely beautiful, of course. Why did all of these horrific events have to happen at all but also in such beautiful places. Like my classmate, Sally Florio said, "It's not only a crime against humanity but against nature, too." I really liked how there were larger stones representing each home country of the victims and then thousands of smaller stones to represent everyone that died there. It was a nice way to tie it all together. I also liked how they set up the information center/small museum because it was so far removed from the actual site. It was nice being able to get the facts first and then just experience it on our own, taking the time that we needed.

    *Debórah Dwork & Robert Jan van Pelt, Holocaust: A History, pg. 255

    **Christa Wolf, Patterns of Childhood, pg. 230
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