Going to a death camp in Poland isn’t everyone’s idea of a pleasant day out – and it isn’t. Yet I went with 200 teachers from across the country to visit Auschwitz to deepen my understanding of the Holocaust.
Most people told me they either went and it was incredibly moving, have put it on a ‘bucket list’ of places to go at some point or could not bear to go.
For me it was one of the most significant places I have ever visited. This was down to a number of factors. Firstly, the Polish tour guide - a woman who takes one or two groups a day. She was full of empathy, compassion and integrity. Secondly, our group leaders, who shared stories of people who were perpetrators or victims. They provoked, moved and inspired me. Thirdly, the place – it overpowered me and saddened me with its history.
However, nothing prepared me for the time of reflection at the end of the day. I can’t paint pictures with words but let me list the ingredients – sitting with 200 on the side of the national memorial at the top end of Auschwitz, the sun was setting through the tall birch trees, all the birds were singing, someone read Psalm 23. Then a rabbi stood up and read a prayer in Hebrew, blew the shofar, led us in a minute’s silence and then shared about the complexity of good people suffering.
I will never forget what the rabbi said; "Some people, when faced with the horror of the Holocaust, cry out 'Where was God?' but I cry out 'Where was humanity?'"
But Jesus encourages us "to treat others as we would like to be treated" – I can positively change your world with love. So I intend to respond positively to the call from God, "Who shall I send?" with a "Here I am, send me".