As the second day of the trip comes to an end [we landed in Poland on Sunday 1st May] we have been up since 6am and are only now going to bed (it's currently 23:20).
It's been a long, emotional day. We visited a small town which, before the war, hosted many Jews - over 60% of the population, in fact. After the first day in Warsaw, this presented a different reality where Jews and Poles lived together for centuries, and traditions (such as Challah bread) have remained until today. Needless to say, the Jews of the village were all deported to Concentration camps.
In the afternoon we visited Majdanek extermination camp. A stark, raw, undescrivable experience, the visit begins with the gas chambers. We walked through the camp for over 2 hours, and it is very difficult to describe the room full of shoes, or the bunk beds, as these contrast with a sunny sky, green grass, colorful beautiful nature. As we often think of these camps in black and white the reality of what it must have been like is even more daunting. The visit finished with the crematoria and a large monument, a mausoleum which hosts the ashes of over 18,000 Jews who died there.
We then moved on to a place of Joy - a chassidic yeshiva founded in 1930 in Lublin. We heard of the amazing story behind it, and learnt a short piece of text, in the chevruta fashion.
In the evening we listened to Renee, a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, who told her story with incredible strength and inspired us, in her own words, to "live our lives to the fullest".
On Tuesday we visit another death camp, Belzac, and then discover more of the mixture of lives of those who lived, survived and, tragically, died in these lands.