by Samuel Durham
It’s cold in Poland. Every day in a heavy sigh, our teachers would give us this greeting – it’s cold in Poland. They herded us onto the bus, everyone buried in wool shirts and down jackets. We layered ourselves with coats and overcoats.
They didn’t help because it’s cold in Poland. The bus felt lifeless, all of the heat and warmth that our bodies should be producing faded away into the chilly air. But, then again, we had it better than the first Jews to go where we were going.
We drove through a skeletal city known as Majdanek. A quiet city, in sound and in color. At first glance, it didn’t seem the city to be neighboring death, but there we were. Alongside us ran a rusty railroad, battered by the onslaught of time.
It stretched out into oblivion, that inky, gray fog that choked out the color from the country. Our bus drove on into the doldrums, leaving the city behind us as it was quietly swallowed by the gray.
We were souls awaiting death, lost in limbo and being led into the gates of death: The Majdanek death camp. Slowly we poured off the bus, and then we saw the entrance. It towered over the flat landscape, despite being only two stories of brick. We marched on the
We marched on the train tracks, into the maw of the camp carved into the base of the tower. Soon enough the tower loomed over us, and with the brick surrounding us, we could only look forward into the wasteland, the infinite field of grass that seemed to be locked in some macabre twilight.
Out in the distance lied buildings of shadow, fading in and out of existence in the fog. The crematorium was directly to our left, and the air was still thick with smoke.
We were intruders in this world. Our warmth, our color, our noise was an affront to the ominous stillness. Time has stopped between these barbed wire fences. It wasn’t 2015 here, it was, is, and forever will be 1944. Here, there remained the perpetual sense that the war never ended and a new train of Jews was bound to arrive soon.
We were Jews, we weren’t supposed to walk out of here. This world was created to keep us trapped within the wire fences. The gray crept in closer, swallowing the last remnants of the buildings into nothing.
Classmates lost their faces, morphing into gray silhouettes that floated along in the icy wind. Majdanek doesn’t stop at taking life. It takes your soul; it takes your very being. It strips you away and leaves a withered husk.
With an icy wind, it carves a hole through you, and you can only watch yourself fade into oblivion. But the wind keeps blowing, it cuts deeper, and within your chest, you hear the faint echo: it’s cold in Poland.