“The cemetery was just left for the town to take care of it, but no one does.”
She pointed out that there was a Nazi cemetery in the vicinity that is cared for, but there are no Jews in the area to see to the needs of the Jewish cemeteries.
On many of the stones in the Jewish burial ground were symbols such as books, which indicated if the person was educated or if he was a rabbi.
“These were apparently hardworking people,” Ratliff said. “It was very surreal. It’s hard to put words this in words.
“Actually being there is such a different experience. It puts things into perspective. We all felt the same way, to know something like (the Holocaust) could really happen.”
TRAIN TRACKS END
For the group, the concentration camps were even more difficult to visit.
“At least in the cemetery, they were buried by their own people,” Ratliff said. “It was so ironic that we visited the concentration camps on gorgeous days.
“To go to Auschwitz B (Birkenau) and see the train tracks just end there affected all of us. We were so quiet just trying to process what went on there. We all dealt with it in our minds by ourselves,” she said.
“A lot of people who visit the camp have their photo taken by the ‘Work will make you free’ (Arbeit macht frei) sign at the camp’s entrance, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to do that.
‘THESE WERE PEOPLE’
Covering her face with her hands and trying to hold back her emotions, Ratliff continued, “When we went into the gas chamber, it really got to me. I was nauseous. It just looked like a giant shower room, and right next to it was the crematorium.
“Then they took the ashes and mixed them for fertilizer. There still is a mound of their ashes. Just to think these were people.”
Email Alvin Reiner at: firstname.lastname@example.org