On a warm, sunny August afternoon, in 1996, a walk along Boston’s Freedom Trail ended, unexpectedly, at the New England Holocaust Memorial. Walking past the first tall glass tower, I remembered how I had walked past the site of the crematoria chimneys at Auschwitz-Birkenau. On this sunny afternoon, as I reached the sixth and last tower, I imagined I could hear once again the same faint voice which had first become audible to me 26 years earlier, as I stood at the ash pits at Treblinka.
In September 1970 I presented a paper at a scientific meeting in Warsaw as part of my post-doctoral training at the University of Geneva. I took the opportunity, on my drive to Warsaw, to visit the memorial museums at Gross Rosen and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Standing alone in those deserted camps and later looking up at Nathan Rappaport’s memorial in the empty space of what had once been the Warsaw Ghetto, became an unforgettable experience.
At Treblinka, as a cold wind moved through the wilderness of the pine forest, I had walked alone along the ‘path to heaven’ to the gas chamber. Seven hundred and fifty thousand Jews had walked this very path—just once—then perished. How different these spaced concrete forms are from what must have been the nightmare experience 38 years earlier as hundreds of thousands of innocent souls traversed this terrain. Treblinka is forever more than a name on a Polish map.
A Voice in the Ashes, through a captivating photographic essay (color and archival), allows the reader to participate in my journey through the historical landscape of the Third Reich.
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