A Memoir of Plaszow MAG

By Ricki M., Marblehead, MA

     The bodies are everywhere. No matter where I turn, I cannot escape them. They are piled to my left and to my right, in front of me, behind. Everything is black and white. The thumping of the soldiers’ boots; the click of triggers ... the piercing cries of victims swirl in my head, spinning round and round until they become a blur of color. I open my eyes.

I sit amidst fresh-cut grass with the sun beating down on me. The land is barren except for the grass and trees that extend as far as I can see, with one statue towering over the rolling hills. The sky is perfectly clear. My surroundings are no longer black and white. The bodies are gone. The somber silence reminds me that there is so much to be told about this beautiful piece of land; if only the trees could talk and tell what they have seen. At this moment I become conscious of reality: the Plaszow concentration camp.

Remember. The one word keeps shooting across my mind. “Never forget” are the last words from each survivor I meet from the concentration camps. There were over three million Jews living in Poland in 1939, now there are hardly a thousand. Genocide.

Times have changed since the 1940s, and now Polish citizens drive by Plaszow daily and office windows look onto the land. The tour guide explains that Poles are not taught what happened here. Judaism is vanishing; a native teenager asked me, “What is a Jew, anyway?” How odd it must seem to observe visitors in this empty space; on this day alone, there are three busloads. The land appears ideal for sunbathing or long walks. Do people remember that thousands of prisoners were killed here?

The screech of a bike tire and the chattering of young Poles interrupt my thoughts. The carefree bikers riding across the land, cheerfully laughing, send a chill up my spine. As I sit in the grass, longing for the power to re-establish the Jewish community of Poland, locals are enjoying a warm Sunday afternoon bike ride. As I envision the mass graves beneath me, the bikers ride up and down the hills where barracks and gas chambers used to stand.

As I watch the other members of my group reflect on the surroundings, the bikers watch us too, wondering why we chose this piece of land to silently scatter ourselves across the grass. What will happen in the future? The bikers depart, never to be seen again.

The fear of the unknown scares me. What will happen to this land? Will it be developed into houses or buildings or will it remain barren forever? Will future generations know that a concentration camp once existed here? How can time transform a place of horrors into one of tranquility and beauty? The prisoners, shootings and screaming reappeared; their images frozen deep in my soul. If the past is forgotten, then the history of our people will fade away, just as the bikes slipped off into the distance and disappeared.

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This article has 2 comments.

TaylorDawn said...
on Dec. 2 2010 at 4:04 pm
Wow. i really liked this. i have been interested in this kind of stuff for years. it made me wake up a bit!

nathan2147 said...
on Aug. 27 2010 at 2:33 pm
I found your memoir very intresting and it captured the image of exactly of that which happened. Great work!


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