Reliving the Nightmare This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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It was a dark rainy day in mid-November. Washington, D.C. looked gloomy and the topic was not helping. The building looked like a ghetto from Warsaw. You could see smoke stacks and chain-link fences along the insides. Just looking at this morbid building sent chills down my spine. I never thought it was possible to feel this way. It was as if some outside force was about to take over my feelings, beyond my control.

As I walked into the first exhibit at the Holocaust museum with my grandmother clutching my hand for dear life, I knew this was going to be one of the hardest things she would ever do. But if it meant educating me about a horrific event, which she had the misfortune of taking part in, she was willing to endure the pain. My immediate family and my aunt and uncle accompanied my grandparents through this traumatic experience. My grandparents relive the nightmare of the Holocaust every night when they go to sleep. They constantly have nightmares of the screams and gunshots which rang out during the night.

As we entered the first room, I was confronted with four dummies lined up in blue pin-striped uniform, characteristic of the concentration camps. There were pictures of peoples’ arms with their numbers tattooed, and articles of children’s clothing with stuffed animals and books. The museum revealed every method of torture the Nazis used during the Holocaust. There were Aryan eye charts, hair samples, calipers for measuring the Jews’ heads. Nothing was left out; it was a complete set of disgusting tools of torture. It was absolutely revolting and made me feel sick. By this time my grandfather was shaking and close to hysterics. I could not even imagine what this was like for him. But it was something he needed to do – to educate me about the horrors of the Holocaust so many people deny ever happened.

I spent most of the walk through the museum with my grandmother in hand. She told me stories about when she was a child and what it was like to have the Gestapo walking through the streets of her town – how one day she was playing with her friend, and the next she found out that she had been taken away by the Nazis.

As I rounded a corner after seeing all of the cities attacked by the Nazis, I saw something I never imagined would be there. It was an actual train car used to transport the Jews to the concentration camps. My grandmother took my hand and led me inside. We walked to the window in the corner, and in the darkness of the car, she began to tell me the story of when she was taken away. “I was just a small girl. They came into my town and hoarded us all into the train. There were hundreds of us packed together like sardines. You couldn’t even breathe. There was only one window and most of the time it was closed. My father was separated from us when we boarded the train and he was in one corner while my mother and I, with my brothers and sisters, were in another. Then one day the doors opened, and my father ran out. I followed screaming, but I never found him.” She stood there staring into the darkness of the train car. My grandfather began to relive what it was like standing in line every day just waiting to get tattooed, but fortunately they never got to him. He has told me so many traumatizing stories through the years that I feel he and my grandmother are two of the bravest people I know. As I left the train car, I was bombarded with piles of suitcases, which were possessions of the people who had ridden these trains to the concentration camps.

Yes, these things were traumatizing to look at, but what I encountered on the rest of my tour was even more horrifying. My next stop was at the crematories. They showed every detail of these death chambers, with actual mannequins with Nazi uniforms carrying piles of bones on stretchers out of the crematory. I started to feel sick; I wanted to run. But I stayed with my grandparents.

Next, as we passed through the glass hallway engraved with all the names of the towns in Europe, we stopped to find my grandparents’ towns. The look of happiness on their faces when they saw the names truly warmed my heart.

Shoes. Millions of shoes. Piled in a large room from wall to wall. Just shoes. Whose shoes were they? I kept wondering if one of my grandparents’ shoes were in that pile. There were shoes of all styles and sizes. High-heeled shoes, boots and tiny baby shoes. They never had a chance to see the world.

As my family and I entered the last area, my grandfather began to lose control. It was a single room, with a flame burning in the middle. He began to cry and shake and I didn’t know what to do. We let him walk across the room to the window which looked over the city. There was a look of fear in his eyes, as if he thought it was all happening again. That day was the most horrible experience for my grandparents since the Holocaust. They were forced to relive their fears. I learned a lot about who my grandparents were, and where they came from, and most of all what they had had to endure. I learned about my history, and me. I came to realize that I was special, because I was the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and it is my job to make sure that no one forgets it happened.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Sardonic said...
Dec. 21, 2016 at 9:08 am
As a German my poor grandmother would have to pose holding my hand. Hoping someone wouldn't hate my Nazi face. Looking like uncle chief apostle of the Apocalypse Nazi church lol
 
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