I have recently returned from a holiday to Germany and Poland which, in all honesty became the journey of a lifetime. I travelled to Pforzheim which was the town in Germany that my mother and grandparents escaped from the Nazi regime to Australia. Whilst in Pforzheim I participated in the Stolpersteine (Stumbling Stone) Project where I had 3 stones laid in the footpath in front of the last address my family lived in prior to fleeing to Australia. I took my mothers ashes home to the town she had been born in, Ravensburg and travelled to Berlin to finally meet a cousin with whom I had been communicating via facebook and email for a number of years. My family, German Jews, originally come from Prussia, which is Poland today and I wanted to see the town my grandparents were from, Breslau (today it is called Wroclaw but people also know it as Breslau). I began my search for my family in the archives at Breslau and found my grandfather's brother, Harry, in the archives. I found his home address and his existence on the transportation lists for Auschwitz. I then travelled to Krakow by train and I could not help but wonder, as I travelled on the train, what was Harry's last journey from Breslau to Krakow like? Was he warm or cold? Was he comforting others or being comforted? As I watched the snow covered landscape role by, I could not help but think of all those souls whose last journey was on a train from Breslau to Krakow.... I cry at their loss and pray for their peace.
Auschwitz … what a disturbing, powerful, terrifying place. As I walked down towards the gas chambers, I watched the ground because it was a little treacherous but I could not help but think about other feet that made this walk; other hips that may have hurt as they walked and others panting in the cold in an effort to keep up with the people they were with. I could not help but see other shoes walking here … What was Harry thinking as he made this walk? Did he know? Or did he believe the solders when they told them they just needed to shower before they were moved onto their final destination? I found myself haunted by these thoughts but I also found myself connecting with my family as I had never connected before. It was very powerful.
Sorry, I have rambled a bit, but this journey was amazing and profound ... a journey I am so glad that I was able to make. I met so many wonderful people in Germany, I consider myself to have been blessed with this opportunity to explore and connect to my past.
Pforzheim was about honouring my grandparents through the Stolperstein Project, Ravensburg was about discovery of my mother's birthplace and bringing her home by laying her ashes to rest and Poland was about finding a connection to my opa's family.
(Pictures to follow)