Monday, October 20, 2008
Our Final Stop
Our last stop of the day was to a Franciscan monestary to an art exhibit from a survivor of Holocaust. We were already fragile after our trip to Birkenau...then this. We went into the basement of the building to be taken by a monk through what can be best described as the personal hell of a survivors memory. I can't do it any justice in a blog outside of putting some pictures up for you to see. As one of my colleagues stated "It was an all out assault on your emotions"...there was simply no turning away from the art...it was installation art...not an "art show"...it was on the ground...on the ceiling...you could not look away.
The survivor was in Auschwitz I from the beginning and saw it all...but repressed the memory until he suffered a stroke in 1992. He was paralyzed from the waist down and afflicted with the nightmares of his past. The doctors suggested he draw/paint (he was an artist...a set designer after the war) his emotions out to deal with his pain. He did exactly that...over 300 drawings/paintings each taking you further into his personal hell. I was unlucky to the be the last one to come in...just as I stepped in the monk locked us in. An ominous portend of what was to come. I wanted a way out of this hellish maze...it was truly discombobulating! The other teachers were happy I did not tell them we were locked in or they thought they might have lost it as well. It took an hour and a half to get through the labyrinth...our drive home to Krakow was somber...each of us grappling with what we had just witnessed. It was the crescendo moment for the week!
Upon return we had a dinner at a Jewish restaurant and met with the teachers we had seen earlier in the day (which seemed like ages ago at this point). We had a great discussion about Polish-American cooperation and collaboration and hope for teacher/student exchange in the future.
Tomorrow we leave for home...I think even the long trip home will be insufficient time to process what we have just experienced.