Auschwitz was one of five death camps established by the Nazis in Poland where Jews were taken to be murdered during the so-called “Final Solution,” a euphemism for the their genocide. We know it through the horrific photos of trains filled with Jews, of men being split from women, parents from children, of the uniformed Nazi wagging his finger, and of the brick chimneys billowing smoke. But there is a much more intimate story still to be heard.
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch had a lucky moment while being processed at the Sauna in Auschwitz-Birkenau. One of the girls processing her asked her what she did prior to landing in that place of unspeakable horror. “I played the cello,” she answered. That surreal conversation, not far from the gas chambers at Birkenau, would save her life. As a member of the Auschwitz women's orchestra, playing the cello meant respite from heavy labor.
USC Shoah Foundation will once again offer USC students the opportunity to study post-genocide reconstruction in Rwanda this summer on the annual “Rebuilding Rwanda: Memory, Testimony, and Living Together After Genocide” course at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Auschwitz should never have existed, so why are we so keen to cling onto it? Would it not be reasonable to scrub it from the landscape, remove the very thought of what it represents from our minds, recognize it as the cemetery it is, then grass it over and leave the dead to rest in peace?