I went to Auschwitz, the Pain-land. A testimony against antisemitism
When I was in London to study political science, I wanted to leave and go to Bristol, because I had found out at that time, that the university there, had Holocaust studies. I was terrified as a younger man by the unimaginable crime that took place in Europe. (The continent that gave Aristotle and Kant.) The Holocaust directed against the Jews is the greatest version of evil. I have been to Poland to look for answers, and even walked from city to city, on a land blood-spattered in the past.
I am an activist. Thus, every time I see no justice or an ongoing problem, I have ‘to take action’. To do something about it. “I am a citizen, not of Athens only”, as the philosopher Socrates would say –paraphrasing slightly his words– “but a citizen of the world”. As I mentioned, I visited Poland on several occasions, and I went to Auschwitz (officially known as Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum). I have written a book for over 12 years―in honoring the Jews―about the centuries of antisemitism, WWII, and the Holocaust, titled as: ‘The blackbirds of Warsaw’ (in the process of looking for an agent).
But why do I consider Poland as a vital key in understanding both, the Jews and Israel? After I visited Auschwitz –you need to see for yourself, as in my opinion, eye-gate knowledge is the most important– I changed as a human being. The evil in Auschwitz, it reached its darkest peak. Evil doesn’t happen overnight; it happens gradually. The extermination area still smells death. The ovens still have ashes in their cracks. What had the Jews done wrong?―Nothing! What happened there cannot be either ignored or forgotten.
Why; Poland is now a place of pilgrimage for Jews from around the world. If one is lucky enough to ask several tourist guides in Warsaw, Rzeszow (before WWII was known as ‘Little Jerusalem’), Krakow and Auschwitz: “What do the Jews themselves who come here say about what happened, not long ago?”, they will answer back –being for sure terrified with tears in their eyes– with a question like: “Why were so many killed so easily?”, “why didn’t they rise before it was too late?”, “why didn’t they take up arms to defend themselves?”. Pain in Pain-land.By the way, they took up arms and fought where they could. (Those were the notes I kept, from my discussions in Poland, between the years 2010-12.) These reasonable questions of visitors in Poland, in Israel are transformed into a ‘Great Obsession’. They see danger everywhere. Germany’s unconditional surrender wasn’t the end. Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, is still read. To know your existence is at stake propels the mind towards the next possible danger. But they are so right in doing so. I understand them. The tiny country, the only democracy, is surrounded by authoritarian regimes.
We should never forget the statement of the fourth Israeli Prime Minister –the matriarch of Israel– Golda Meir, as is mentioned by Gideon Levy: “After the Holocaust, Jews have the right to do whatever they want”. Thus, the Jews today, ‘unwittingly’, show a different face to the world. Why this? The Jewish ‘civilians-trained-as-soldiers’ during their mandatory military service, support the operations by IDF in Gaza to destroy Hamas and eliminate the tunnels. Why? They have an ethical obligation to demand it, towards –not only the present situation– but all their ancestors that perished so disastrously during the Third Reich years. The attack on southern Israel “is by far, the most traumatic day in the history of the Jewish people going back to the Holocaust” according to Thomas Kaplan.
The Jews are enthusiastically wise and kind-hearted, but the state of Israel is inspired by the logic of times that today one would tend to consider permanently obsolete, as it is dominated by ‘primitive instincts and obsessions’. But again, why is this happening? The answer is Poland, Painland. Thus, these days most Israelis feel a deep sense of attachment to one another. And, if some people say, “The Israelis do to the Palestinians, what the Nazis did to them”, it is so wrong and a big insult to all the people that perished ‘there’, while waiting for the Zyklon-B poison gas to hit their lungs. No! It’s not the same. On the contrary, the Nazis and Hamas are equal horrors.
More people should visit Poland, such as Arab students, journalists, leftist radicals, and old-school Jew haters. It could have helped them to understand. The Jews always had a higher degree of civilization and values towards everybody. But the people in return, disliked them and never understood them. Thus, in the narrow geographical context, in the Palestinian territories and the Arab world, first of all, they should declare publicly that Israel has a right to exist in the land of their ancestors. (For sure, a bright exception is the Abraham Accords countries: the UAE, Morocco, and Bahrain.) The Jews were there even before the birth of Islam. They have nowhere else to go. The warning rise of antisemitism around the world, especially after the Oct. 7 attacks , it should help us to understand better the Jewish State. We know what it led to in the past. I saw it. How can I forget the shoes? The pairs of glasses? How can I forget the greenish number tattoo I saw, on the arms of two survivors while were visiting next to me? The Warsaw Ghetto boy with his arms up?
While I was at Auschwitz with a handkerchief, I was mopping the neck and the forehead constantly. The six million pairs of eyes of the Martyrs, ‘saw me too’. I felt it. Thus, Israel today will never stop working towards a safe future (like the organ of the human heart). Security is the password –or bitachon, a Hebrew word that also encompasses trust and faith–, for the Jewish mindset. And, as Rafael Medoff mentioned in New York Post, an Arabic-language copy of Hitler’s manifesto was discovered in a Gaza apartment used by Hamas. Everybody understands what it means, or perhaps not?
(Also, I would like to explain here, why in the title of the book I have written based on those pilgrimages, exists the word, ‘birds’. Of course, there are thousands of black birds all over Poland that inspired me with their stunning beauty. One of the reasons, is, that if evolution had left the wings to the human beings, all the prisoners from inside the various extermination camps, would have flown off away to save themselves.)
Dimitris Eleas is a New York–based writer, independent researcher, and political activist. Originally from Greece, his writings have appeared in books, journals, and newspapers. You can contact him via his email: email@example.com.