An American View: From Minolta To Reality This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   When they told us on the bus that seeing this would be a sobering experience, I had no idea what they meant. I immediately thought that this would be just like seeing a video in Global Studies. And so I was not mentally prepared for the harsh reality of so much death.

When we first arrived at the gates of the camp, I didn't see evidence of the death and torture that I had read about; all I saw were the great pictures that I could take. I first opened my eyes to reality when I walked down the stairs to a quarry. The ludicrous thought of thousands of men running over its rough terrain at first sounded like something shown on ESPN but then a feeling hit my stomach that I had only felt once before, at a classmate's funeral. I realized that in my sheltered life I had never looked at the wider picture and when I did, I saw that most of those people didn't have shoes and that if I, at age 15, wearing sneakers had trouble walking, how would somebody 50 or 60 years old, underweight and starving manage here? Then an even worse thought came to mind: people probably died on these same steps. I became scared. Terribly. But I kept it in, still looking for a good picture. With camera in hand I went to the area where they slept, first taking a picture of a cross on the side of a building. I walked down stairs that looked like the entry to a subway station. I went down and saw gas chambers and a crematory. These would have been great pictures but my camera was out of film and so I had to deal, finally, with what I was seeing, through my eyes, not the camera's. I was walking with my friend Jimmy who pointed out holes in the door and scratches on the concrete walls. I held in the tears and refused to go into any of the rooms. I went up the stairs to a long house with many cells inside. The hard walls must have surrounded the prisoners since there were no beds. The rooms were very bleak. But worse than any of this was something no camera could capture: it was in the air. The odor was terrible and I felt like with one breath it could crawl up inside of me and take a piece of my life. I couldn't hold back any longer: I had to let out my emotions.

Throughout these experiences I kept reminding myself of the prisoners' incredible will to live.

This was demonstrated to me very well by a song entitled "Bashana Haba'ah":

Next year, when peace will come, we shall return to the simple pleasures of life so long denied to us, you will see. O, how good it will be next year. c


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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