Never Be Forgotten

December 16, 2008
By Meghan Fierro, Mesa, AZ

To learn about the Jewish Holocaust is one thing, but to step into the cells of the once imprisoned Jews is another. This last summer, the summer of 2008, I had an amazing chance to visit Europe including the country The Czech Republic. The Czech Republic was once a country who was isolated and wouldn’t let people cross its boarders but is now open to everyone. In this fascinating country I had the chance to visit a concentration camp named Camp Terezin. I knew that it was going to be a tragic and sad experience, but I also knew that it was an important part of history and that it would be beneficial for me to see it. Learning about what happened inside this dreadful place was enough to create a memory that would never be forgotten. To walk around and see where these Jewish prisoners were kept and how they slept was a sickening sight. I will never forget the feeling I had once I stepped onto the gravel at the entrance of Camp Terezin, the awful rooms where the innocent Jewish people lived and worked, and learning about how the German soldiers treated these helpless people based upon their religion and faith.

I walked past the rose-filled cemetery to the chipped arch way at the entrance of the camp. My heart sank and my stomach suddenly became upset. As I walked slowly but at a steady pace, I stopped and stared at one of the head stones and noticed that it didn’t have a name on it but a number. The next one also had a number. I soon realized that innocent people died without someone having a record of their name.

As we walked into this dusty, barren place, I felt as if I was in a black and white film of the past; everything was dull. Everyone was silent, and all I could hear was the crunch of the gravel beneath our shoes. We soon met our tour guide and started off on our tour through the camp. The prisoners cells were the first stop. One side of the room consisted of nothing more than numbered bunk beds made of wooden slats with no mattresses. The other side of the room had little cubbies for the people’s belongings. Under the window was one sink, and to the left was one bathroom all used by about fifty prisoners. The fact that this was a concentration camp and not an extermination camp was a small relief, but when you explored the rooms and learned how they lived, nothing could have made me feel worse.

“Arbeit macht frei” is German for “Work shall set you free.” This phrase was painted onto the archway leading to the prisoners’ cells. These words show just how odious the camp leaders were. The German soldiers were giving the prisoners false reasoning as motivation to work hard, and all this was doing was making prisoners work to death or lose hope in trying to be set free. Upon exiting the camp, we came across the German soldiers’ living quarters. The houses were two stories and nicely painted, they even had a swimming pool. To just come past the living quarters of the officers you would never know that behind the stone wall were prisoners living dreadfully and working themselves to death.

As I walked away from the camp, I reflected upon being in the same exact spot where the innocent Jewish people suffered. Thoughts raced through my head about how people could live in a world with genocide and how it is still goes on today in other countries with other reasons for hatred. I learned so much from this experience and reached a better understanding about what happened during the Holocaust. I will never forget the feeling I had upon entering Camp Terezin, the awful rooms where the prisoners were kept, and learning about how the camp leaders treated the innocent Jews. As I reached the tour bus, I looked back at the rose filled cemetery and chipped archway. The tragedy of the Holocaust must never be forgotten and will not be forgotten. It will forever stay in my mind and heart. This part of history has a sole purpose of what we are capable of becoming- a warning to not repeat history.

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