Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I spent hours today in the library at the Holocaust Museum, looking at pictures of old Jewish Europe, streets scenes in pre-war Krakow, specifically. Oh the beards! Oh the hats! Wow. We Polish Jews were short and wide, almost Hobbit-like in appearance.
I was careful to avoid looking at any image of the Holocaust itself, steering a wide circle around the pics labeled "Jews being rounded up," "The move into the ghetto," "SS officers shoot Jews" and especially the pics of the camps. I've seen plenty of them, who hasn't?
Think of what it must have been like, at the end of WWII, to see for the first time the photos taken by those who liberated the concentration camps. My mother told me that they knew it was bad, but had no idea just HOW bad it was until they saw those pictures. There's a way in which she never recovered from the shock of learning the awful truth.
Poland was "THE country of the Holocaust" or so said the really nice photo archivist at the museum today. If I go to Krakow I need to be prepared to deal with the energy. Today I looked at images of the living world of Jewish Poland before the war. I'm thinking maybe I'll have to face some of the liberation photos again before I go, learn how to manage my reactions in a healthy way.
I've got my work cut out for me.