I had just turned 17 when I walked through grayed gates of Auschwitz. 6 million Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust. 1,100,000 were imprisoned there. 960,000 of them died.
My great great grandfather, Rabbi Israel Chaim Goldman, was amongst the only survivors in my family. In Hebrew, his middle name means ‘life’. He is buried at Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, among 210,000 others.
All of the needle inked arms that no longer beat with a pulse. Each ‘Channa’, whose name I share, and fate I could have also. All of the people who knew the gate I walked both into and out of, as solitarily a one way entrance. Their work never made them free, like the metal German letters across the entry gate declared it would.
I saw a pond with waters blackened from the ashes of the people whose bodies were burned at the bottom. In Night, Elie Wiesel describes this same cavity, upon seeing it filled with flames and human beings. He says how those around him were crying the prayer said for one who has died. Only now, each said it for themselves. 3 roses were floating atop its waters. Nothing looks beautiful behind barbed wire.
As I walk, my tears freeze to my face. The people around me have the flag of Israel draped around their shoulders. I remember home calls me like life has no choice but to let me know it is there. It has been for 2,000 years.
Daniel looks at me while I am crying. In his eyes, I can feel the love he has for his three Israeli children. And for his wife, Chana. Today, nearly 6 million Jews live in Israel, and a popular song is known amongst its people—Am Yisrael Chai; the people of Israel live.