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Our visit to Prauge

Thursday, 23 March, 2017 - 12:46 pm

 The city of Prague and the country of the Czech Republic has shown me that there was much more history and details from the Holocaust than from Germany, the United States, and of course Israel. When I grew up studying the Holocaust in both public school and Hebrew school, it is hard to focus on what happened between the periods after Hitler rose to power, and the final resolution. Today, I learned a fresh perspective on the series of events of the Holocaust, and how one thing led to another.

Waking up at 4 am and speeding through the Audubon, we embarked on an unforgettable day to Theresenstadt and Prague. I didn't know much about either places, and the Jewish relevance of each destination. After a three hour drive, we got off the bus at at Theresenstadt to see a very small town square, comparable in size to the University of Illinois' quad. There was a bank, a church, shops, and other things you would see in a small village. But what I didn't realize was that around 100,000 people died within the span of this square. It's crazy to think that many people could die, especially my Jewish people, in such a small area, comparable to the quad in Champaign-Urbana. That really stuck to me.

We dug deep into Theresenstadt, heading to the museum, which used to be a former school for Jewish children. We saw a video that the Nazis showed to the Red Cross, a video that showed how great the town was to the Jews, and that they were "so grateful" to be there. We all knew that wasn't true. We also saw the different kinds of beautiful art and music that was made in Theresenstadt. The painting varied from showing the painful current times the people were living, to remembering what freedom was and what it could come to.

Following the museum, we saw the first living spaces the Jews lived before it became too overcrowded. But overcrowded was an understatement. In a room the size of a cabin for 10 people in an overnight camp, we saw where the Nazis stuffed hundreds of Jews in the rooms, and the little privacy that drove people mad. However, it only got worse.

The next stop we walked to a broke down shack, that had a bunch of junk and garbage in it. It looked absolutely disgusting. Little did we know that after they realized it was too crowded to stuff people in bunk beds, they shoved these people of all ages; kids, people over 65 years old, men, women, into these shacks. I couldn't imagine living in these shacks, especially with the brutal winters they had to face before they died.

Following seeing these terrible, terrible things, we went to the worst of all, the crematorium. Remember seeing where the bodies of thousands of people made me so sick to my stomach, gave me the creeps. I couldn't believe the Jewish people who would be forced to put family, friends, and acquaintances into these fire chambers. Following that, we saw where the Jews with the worst jobs at all had to perform "autopsys" of all those who died, and rip their flesh so it would be able to fit in the cremator. The thought of that... there aren't any words.

We ended our trip on a much more positive note. We went to a makeshift synagogue the Jews made that was hidden from the Nazis. The size of a tiny attic, we crammed in there to see a painted star, along with the Hebrew words of Jerusalam if i forget you.... It was incredible that even what was going on during the time of death and frustration, they still had faith in G-d and that maybe one day, they could see Israel become a free nation, and most of all, think positive. It was a life lesson to me that no matter what the circumstances are, that we all must think positively and always hope for the best. We finished our trip with prayer and tephillin. I will never forget this experience, and we should all remember the past, and think positive about the future in all our future endeavors of being a Jew.


Matt Sherman 

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