Our first stop today was a cemetery in Warsaw, where we visited the graves and learned about the lives of some very important, inspiring and impactful figures. We visited the side by side graves of the Netziv (Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin) and Rav Chaim Brisker. Both were dedicated Roshai Yeshivot with important written works. We visited Y.L Peretz’s grave, where we learned about his life and read one of his many short stories. We visited the grave of Adam Czernlakov, the head of the Judenrat, and learned about his life, the difficult decisions he had to make in his position of power, and his tragic but arguably heroic death. We visited the tombstone of Stephanie Wiltzenska, who was killed in the gas chambers at Treblinka, but has a tombstone next to her sisters in Warsaw. We learned about her selflessness, bravery, and devotion to the orphanage of Janusz Korcazk, who also had a memorial at the cemetery. Steffa is often overlooked, and not recognized as Janusz’s equal in their heroism. We visited a mass grave, and had the opportunity to pay respect to the thousands of people murdered and buried there.
We then traveled to Majdanek. The images seen at Majdanek were truly frightening. We stood in barracks, gas chambers and the crematorium, where we learned about the absolute inhumane cruelty that took place at Majdanek. We looked at the endless array of shoes taken from those murdered in cold blood. We heard testimony from brave survivors who passed through Majdanek. We had the opportunity to sit, write, and reflect on what we saw and how it effected us.
From Majdanek we traveled to Lublin, only minutes away from the camp. We went to a Lublin Jewish cemetery, where we visited the graves, heard legends of, and learned about the lives of The Maharshal (R’ Shlomo Luria Ashkenazie), and The Chozeh of Lublin (Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz). We learned about The Maharshal’s works and life as a Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi. We learned about the life of The Chozeh and early chassidut.
We then traveled to Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, where we learned about the life and works of R. Meir Shapira, a genius, the founder of Daf yomi, a political figure, and a beloved rosh yeshiva. We then had the amazing opportunity to sit in the beit midrash of the yeshiva and learn together. It was a long, meaningful day full of stories of beautiful and tragic life and death.