Ghosts of Auschwitz

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As teenagers around the world prepare for group trips to Auschwitz this summer, I am preparing to break a promise. If ghosts exist, I’m not afraid of them. Not any more.

The Nazi crematoria of Auschwitz and Sobibor consumed most of my grandfather’s family.
At Jewish primary school, we sat on the scratchy carpet looking up at an old man who recited otherworldly stories of crowded railcars and forced tattooing and ovens in which his family burned.
At home, if a reference to the Nazi genocide flashed across the television screen, my parents protectively changed the channel. But, alone, I stumbled upon films I shouldn’t have seen in which a mass of undressed men trudged toward false shower rooms and German dogs mauled Jewish children as their mothers screamed.
A shelf in my parents’ dining room held books on Jewish history and heritage. Flung open, they revealed pages of terrifying black and white and sepia photographs. Naked women at the edges of open pits, desperately covering their genitals and breasts with their arms and hands. Skeletal figures, still alive, reaching through barbed wire fences. Open mass-graves.