Yesterday our group went to the largest Jewish cemetery in Poland, one of the largest in Europe. I must say it was quite beautiful but very overgrown. Some  Poles say it is so overgrown because the Jewish families do not take care of their own, but in reality, many family members have moved away or even died.

This unique cemetery holds around 230,000 graves, with many laid to rest inside ostentatious tombs that are works of art themselves. We cleaned up a a grave next to the famous industrialist Israel Poznański. His mausoleum is the biggest in the cemetery, and it is quite a spectacle.

Less extravagant burials are now dedicated to the burial of the 45,000 or so Jews who died in the Łódź ghetto. You’ll find them in the so-called ‘Ghetto Field’, south of the cemetery. This is where the ‘clean-up squad’ of around 800 Jews who had remained to clear the ghetto were forced to dig their own graves. The Nazis, surprised by the speed of the Soviet advance, didn’t have time to carry out the execution, so the empty graves have been left as eerie reminder.

These massive graves sent a chill down my spine as I was walking by them. I was shocked on how deep and wide they were. I left happy though, because those 800 people lived and were not excuted in such a barbaric way.

This whole experience so far has made me think in another person’s shoes on what it was like for Jews during World War Two. I am looking forward to the journey ahead !

-Lydia Newton

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