Cnaan Liphshiz was among a group of journalists who recently traveled to Poland to take part in a five-day seminar. He is JTA’s news and features correspondent, based in Europe, and was joined by reporters from The New York Times, AFP and other outlets.
The journalists during their visit were briefed on the beginnings of a program that will seek to gradually restore the barracks of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The effort has begun with the tenting of just two of the camp’s 450 structures and involves cataloging of items, the creation of replicas of objects that are too damaged and the reinforcement of building foundations. From Liphshiz’s piece:
During the seminar, the first-ever designed for journalists by the [Auschwitz] museum, we saw a dozen restorers carefully polishing some of the 3,800 suitcases of Holocaust victims.
“It’s drudgery, but when the faded name once again appears on the leather, it’s like giving a headstone to a person without a grave,” Maria Swieton, a 30-year-old restorer at the lab told me. In addition to suitcases, the museum also has 110,000 shoes and 4,500 artworks.
In the article, Liphshiz also re-examines a previous visit he made to Auschwitz as a high school student and some Leonard Cohen lyrics he quoted from for an inscription made in the Auschwitz museum guestbook. He is now deeply embarrassed by what he wrote and tried to come to grips with that fact during his time in Poland.
Screen grab via: auschwitz.org