Sunday, August 3, 2014

Walking Through Auschwitz

It has been far too long since I have posted. In this inexcusable time of absence I traveled to Europe, gallivanted in California and enjoyed some other wanderings here and there. My first book I’m Trying Here has been out almost three months and is having moderate success on the e-book circuit. But now it is time to move forward. I have been working on several projects and have simply been waiting for one to take some form of momentum.

My moment of clarity has arrived, and I am 11 pages into my second novel. It will be a cross-breeding of genres type of book. It will be a true account of my experience visiting Auschwitz in Poland. Part of it will be historical context, the other part will be motivational/philosophical i.e. what can we learn from studying or experiencing tragedy? What benefit can come from learning about evil and hatred? These are questions that have hibernated in my mind for years, and now I wish to better articulate my inquires, and posit them for all who wish to read.  I don’t want to give away too much yet in terms of motifs and plot structure, but like I said, above all it will be about the Holocaust, and my personal dealings with history. Below I will mention a few salient experiences from my trip to Auschwitz.

I have read dozens of books on the Holocaust, and about concentration camps. There are few things I don’t know about the general history of the Nazi regime and their accompanying plans of horror and destruction. Alas, there is no way to prepare for entering these camps. There is no way to understand the gravity of the events taken place without walking in the paths of history, and experiencing it with your senses. Listening to things about life and the world is important, reading about these things is imperative, but being there, experiencing them is an unparalleled sensation. A man can learn a lot by listening to a suave Casanova ramble on about dating, maybe even more so by reading a book on the subject. But you will learn exponentially more by asking girls out yourself, or by going on a double date with this putative master of dating. This principle holds true for almost any area of learning. Experience, and presence trumps all else.

At Auschwitz, where literally millions of innocent people died decades ago, I myself paid money to enter the horrid gates. At the entrance, engraved atop in iron with ironic morbidity are the words Arbeit Macht Frei (Work sets you free. Our tour took many hours, and yet I was rather upset that it ended so quickly. The camps are vast and overwhelming. I was maniacally taking pictures and trying to take in the moments, all the while trying to imagine the impossible hardships of those who walked those barracks, gas chambers and fields some seventy years ago.

Certain things touched me in a way that will resonate with me forever, in a way no book could ever provide. The exhibits that displayed the things that the Nazis seized from the Jews and other prisoners upon arrival were absolutely harrowing. I knew they would take all of their personal items, their shoes, their glasses, their prosthetics, and even their hair, but seeing it up close, behind glass was something that left my stomach unsettled and my eyes full of water. Specifically the hair; the hair that was violently shaved or cut off by Hitler’s henchman was hard to look at. You could see tiny ponytails and little piles of hair that were clearly that of children. It made my heart churn and weep.

I could go on for pages, but I will save my narcissistic mutterings for my book. All I know is that visiting those haunted grounds changed me in a beautiful and existential way. And though you may not ever have the opportunity yourself, I hope you can have similar experiences that change your view of the world, and inspire you to do good, to do better. 

I am working hard on this book and hope to have it finished within the next few months. Thanks for the support, and let me know if you have any questions. As the book progresses I will post periodical excerpts like I did with my first work. Cheers & adieu.