Wednesday, August 16, 2006


There are a million things to blog about concerning our trip to New York, but most of them will have to wait until we get home and my feet stop hurting.

But a few things must be put down while they are fresh.

While in Boro Park completing the multi-year quest of finding oval challah pans...don't ask...we had lunch at an (un-airconditioned) Israeli restaurant on 13th Avenue called Amnon. We didn't find many of the people to be friendly. To be honest, with only one exception I found the people in Boro Park to be rude, condescending, and dismissive. But there was an exception.

This is Bronia.

Bronia -- I won't use her last name -- approached our table and spent a very pleasant few minutes in conversation with us. She wanted to make sure we felt welcome -- it was pretty obvious we were outsiders -- and to tell us about the Museum of Jewish Heritage, at which she volunteers.

Bronia is originally from Galicia, in Poland. She was born about 20 miles from the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Her parents were exterminated there. So were her mother's 10 siblings.

Bronia and her sisters were sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis when Bronia was only 8 years old. She was originally chosen for immediate extermination in the gas chambers, but snuck into the line her sister was in and began 4 years as a slave laborer. She exited the camps at the age of 12 when the camps were liberated. Only she survived.

Bronia made the infamous Death March from Auschwitz through the snow, pushed onward by the Nazis, who shot anyone who stumbled or slowed. She walked past bodies of people she knew, dead in the snow with bullets through the head. She says it took her 25 years to laugh again, and that she still hasn't cried.

People did this to her. To her family. To humanity. And I don't know how to process it. Now, none of this is news to me...I know all this. And I've met survivors before. But I don't understand it and I can't understand it and I don't want to understand it. I want to cry. Loudly, and unashamedly. I want to give voice to the grief and pain and longing and disbelief.

But I can't cry enough.

So I am going to say Kaddish. For Bronia's mother and father. For her sisters and aunts and uncles. For all of them. And I promise not to forget. I will never be able to understand, but I will remember.


Rachel H said...

I've read this twice now, and cried both times. Thank you for sharing Bronia's story.

CarryFairie said...

wow. Thank you for sharing that...

Lynn in Tucson said...

No comments? I'm sure many find themselves at a loss for what to say. Thank you, Aidan, for a very moving post.

mc78 said...

So sad. And so shameful as we stank idly by while genocide continues to occur.

Elisabeth said...

I've been to Dachau and the Holocaust Museum in DC. I have certainly read many stories. But they always get to me. And here's what I think about everytime:

What would I have done?

If I had been packed off to a concentration camp, or a death camp, would I have survived (barring getting shot, or being sent to the showers)? Would I have had the will and the determination to survive, or would it have been too much and I would've given up?


(And this is the more likely scenario, being that I'm not Jewish) Would I have had the courage to do what I could to help? Could I have hid a family, or help them out of the country or joined the resistance? Or would I have hid behind my blue eyes, and shrugged my shoulders and said, "I'm glad it's not me?" Put another way, would I have been a Pope John Paul or a Pope Benedict?

I don't know. You can never know until you are put in that situation. I'd like to think that I would've survived, that I would've helped, but I'm honest enough with myself to say, I just don't know.

So, when I pray (and I always do after reading something like this), I pray for all the souls of those who did not make it, but I also pray that, if I am ever in a similar situation, I would do what is right, not what is easy.

Tomme said...

Aidan - I, too, will remember. Thanks for sharing Bronia's story.

Laurie (Moo!) said...

Thank you for telling Bronia's story. She was a brave girl and sounds like a wonderful woman, now.

There is no way to understand the horrific things that happened.

But we should never forget.