We crossed the border from Poland to Germany last Friday, on International Refugee Day. I stepped into Germany and felt my muscles tighten. I was here once before, 5 years ago, and did not think much about crossing the border this time. The borders have changed since 1938 and I saw the border crossing as a symbolic activity. So I was surprised to feel something different when we crossed. After visiting Treblinka and the final places Frieda, Otto, and Ruth lived, my mind raced with the horrors of the Nazi regime. I felt every muscle in my body tighten as I heard others speak German, rode on German trains, or saw German signs. After two minutes, I was ready to leave.
On the Polish/German border
At the same time, everyone I met was kind and welcoming. They were eager to hear my Zayda’s story and show my family how much has changed. But everywhere I looked there was another Holocaust related monument or sign. I struggled to fully gather my thoughts.
Then we started biking. On Wednesday, we visited Buchenwald, where my Zayda’s uncle, Jakob Lindenbaum, was murdered. From there we launched our bike ride to Unna. No pictures can capture the vastness and seemingly endless beauty we rode through. The video below is simply a glimpse of our ride back to Unna.
Through this ride, I have seen a new Germany. One I never thought existed. One of serenity. One of peace.
Riding alongside my Zayda, I have come to see Germany in a new light. As we were biking, my Zayda turned to his family and said, “For the last 76 years, I have seen Poland and Germany as dark, empty places. That dark cloud has lifted.” I will never forget – I may never forgive – the acts done here 76 years ago. But that dark cloud is lifting for me, too. Today we ride into Unna. 20 strong. Ages 12 to 81. 76 years later.