The memorial on the grounds of Treblinka is overwhelming. Large stones are scattered throughout the grass within the forest, some bearing the names of Polish towns from which the victims of Treblinka were deported. After overcoming the initial awe this powerful space inspires, I noticed “Chmielnik” carved into one of the stones.
We had just visited the town of Chmielnik a few days prior. Like many Polish towns, it has a rich Jewish history but was left with virtually no Jewish community following the Holocaust. Incredible work is being done by the locals to revive the once thriving Jewish community through educational programs for Polish youth. To spend time in the town, imagining its past, and then see its name upon the stone at Treblinka several days later, was jarring. It struck me as a microcosm of the complexities in navigating Poland’s difficult past with its contemporary efforts to remember.
The Auschwitz Jewish Center is operated by the Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. For additional blog entries by and about the Auschwitz Jewish Center, please visit mjhnyc.org/tag/ajc. All Summer 2018 newsletter articles are found here.