Spring came exceptionally late to southern Poland this year, the patches of snow along the railway track into the former Birkenau concentration camp a reminder that winter had begun to loosen its grip just two days earlier.
A few months after my bar mitzvah, my father disappeared. We didn’t know what had happened to him.
Edith Klein and her mother lined up on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau roll-call field. It was September 1944, and they feared being transported to a different camp. “Let’s hide,” Edith’s mother suggested, and the two darted into an empty barracks. But soon, afraid they would be missed, they rejoined the roll-call lineup, only to be caught and dispatched to the crematorium, where they faced another selection.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp attracted a record number of visitors in 2010. Some 1.38 million people visited the site in southern Poland, up from 1.3 million in 2009, the Auschwitz memorial museum announced Wednesday. More than a half-million Poles visited the site, as well as 84,000 British citizens, 74,000 Italians, 68,000 Germans and 63,000 French nationals, according to a statement released by the museum. About 59,000 Israeli visitors came to the site.
Visiting the Yad Vashem museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.
David Grossman, 18, wanted to make the Holocaust more personal. Eliya Shachar, 18, wished to understand her grandmother's pain. And Max Kappel, 17, wanted to find a tangible place to comprehend the Shoah.
They were among 51 teenagers from Los Angeles who took part in last week's March of the Living 2005 in Poland, which retraces the nearly two miles from Auschwitz to Birkenau, following the path of concentration camp inmates forced to walk to the gas chambers. They were accompanied by survivors for whom that trail once meant death, including Nandor "Marko" Markovic, 82, a Holocaust survivor, and his wife, Frances, who squeezed into the slow-moving and untidy line of about 20,000 people from almost 50 countries.
Each year, the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet forces is marked on Jan. 27, but this year, the 60th anniversary has given Poland, site of the most infamous Nazi death camps, a special opportunity for remembrance and reflection.
The anniversary ceremonies, which will be held at the memorial site in Birkenau, will draw an assortment of international dignitaries and leaders. Among those slated to attend are Israeli President Moshe Katsav, Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yuschenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.