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  • Being the first of the Operation Reinhard extermination camps and because there are only two known survivors out of 500,000, Belzec is one of the camps we know the least about. It is estimated that as many as 500,000 (mainly Jews) were killed there. And because the Nazis stopped using it sometime before Liberation, it was totally destroyed. A memorial and information center is all that’s left there today.

    I think what surprised me the most was how small the area actually was. How could so many people have been killed in such a small space? It's just not possible. Unfortunately, it happened. Being there made me think back to a famous quotation from Elie Wiesel’s Night. Wiesel states, “I told him that I did not believe that they could burn people in our age, that humanity would never tolerate it . . .”*

    As one of the Holocaust’s most famous and celebrated survivors, Elie Wiesel’s words are important, significant and impactful. What he says here is something that makes so much sense, something you think could never happen and something you shudder in horror at the thought of, yet it is impossibly true and absolutely horrifying. One might think that humanity would never allow such a crime but we did. So many people sat back in their towns and watched as Jews and other were literally being burned down the street.

    It is crazy to think about now, but during World War II, this actually happened on a daily basis and yet people still sat around and did nothing about it. How upsetting it must be for Wiesel to think about all the suffering he went through as others continued to live their lived without thinking twice about the smell of burning flesh coming from the death camp just down the road.

    I believe that Belzec is a perfect example of this because almost 500,000 people were killed there. 500,000 – and there were only 2 survivors. Being that it was the trial for the other Operation Reinhard camps, I think that the Nazis were probably pretty please with themselves.

    I think that we owe it to the victims, the survivors, humanity and especially ourselves that we make sure something like this never happens again. We are the people that make up the humanity that does not tolerate it, just as Elie Wiesel believed we would not. I know we can do it; we just need to continue educating ourselves, and standing up for what we believe in.

    As for the memorial itself, it is quite strange, but nonetheless powerful and moving. One thing that really stood out to me was the original train tracks that led into Treblinka. I'm still not exactly sure why they're at Belzec but they were astounding to see nonetheless. I actually stood beside the tracks on which trains carried thousands of people to their deaths.

    I think that it's appropriate for the tracks to be there to some extent because the two camps, along with Sobibor were part of Operation Reinhard and are all connected. This just goes to show how memory can be moved about and altered and how it is absolutely malleable.

    *Elie Wiesel, Night
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