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Posts Tagged ‘Track 17.’

A year ago I took one of the most transformative journeys of my life, with 24 fellow educators, to study the Holocaust and the Jewish resistance to it, in Washington, DC, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland. I kept an extensive diary and took tons of photographs. And contrary to many assumptions, it was a journey that led to profound understandings about life, not death.  For the next several days, I have decided to go back and retrace my steps and try to process what unfolded for me. Not weighty tomes, but maybe a picture and a note from the diary.

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Track 17. All aboard. Now.

Track 17. All aboard. Now.

Our state of the art bus brings us to a place seemingly on the edge of nowhere in Berlin. There is no train station that we can see. Just tracks that end abruptly and loading platforms, one spur of rails below, but no train.

The you notice the stepping grates.

You look down:

Oct. 18, 1941. 1251 Jews. Destination: Lodz Ghetto.

Oct. 18, 1941. 1251 Jews. Destination: Lodz Ghetto.

What does this mean? On that day, the first of the mass deportations from Berlin, 1251 people were rounded up and sent to board the trains of the Reichsbahn. “The police and SS had assembled the people for this transport in a collection camp for Jews, which was located in the synagogue in Levetzowstraße in Berlin’s Moabit district. They then chased most of the men, women and children to Grunewald by foot. Until March 1945, about 180 further transports from Berlin to the ghettos followed; from August 1942, transports were also directly headed for extermination camps.” (Source: Gleis 17 Memorial – Berlin Grunewald)

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“At first, the special trains consisted of passenger cars, yet from 1942 on, the Reichsbahn increasingly began using cattle cars for the deportations.”

 

Now, tell me, who is going to pay for all of this? After all, there is a war on. Well, who do you think?

“The conveyance of the Jews was billed to the Jewish community: 4 pfennigs were charged per kilometer for adults and 2 pfennigs for children above the age of four.”  The Jewish community of Berlin is essentially forced to buy tickets to its annihilation.

March 27th, 1945. The last transport out of Berlin. Theresienstadt is the only destination. Note that for later.

March 27th, 1945. The last transport out of Berlin. Theresienstadt is the only destination. Note that for later.

As we prepare to board the bus to our final stop for today, July 6, I pause by myself. It is a beautiful  summer day. A breeze ripples gently, the trees reclaiming the site shimmer and whisper.  And then the whistle blows. Nearby, an unseen train is passing, the click on the tracks steadily growing louder, then trailing off slowly in the wind.

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No, you cannot be forgotten.

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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Heart of Berlin.

 

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Heart of Berlin.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Heart of Berlin.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

 

It is not a maze, but you feel you are lost. The walking surface is uneven. Which way do you turn? Where are you going? Now go below, into the subground museum/memorial.

Letting the images tell the story now.

Deportation. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Deportation. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

 

And just where do these photographs come from?

 

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Deportation. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Deportation. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

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