I’ve been within driving distance of the Nazi death and slave labor camps in Europe, but as a Jewish man couldn’t emotionally bring myself to visit them.
I’ve traveled all over the world yet haven’t mustered the courage to visit Germany or Poland, except for a layover at the Frankfurt airport. Even that felt weird to me. Of course, today’s Germany isn’t the Germany of the 1930s and 40s, and the country is Israel’s second-largest trade partner.
Yet their history remains intense. Especially for Jews.
I can barely finish a Holocaust documentary without turning it off in tears.
I had four cousins all under the age of five who were slaughtered by the Nazis.
When I toured the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., shortly after it opened in 1993, I felt like I had been punched and kicked. All I could do is return to my hotel and cry for the rest of the day.
The museum tour ends with a giant pile of shoes from actual Jewish Holocaust victims. The shoes, and the death toll of children, hit the hardest. Over 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered in the Holocaust.
I had a similar reaction the few times I visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust history museum in Jerusalem, where you enter a hallway with pictures that seem to go up to infinity along the wall. The photos are Jewish families in the years before they were slaughtered in the Holocaust.
In their homes. With their loved ones. Happy. But we all know the next part of the story.
One of the Nazi camps, Auschwitz, located in Poland, was the largest of the Nazi concentration and death camps. Over 1.1 million men, women and children died there.
I visited the Rwandan Genocide Memorial in Kigali in 2021, saw the bloodstained clothes, and left feeling sick.