In recollections of Holocaust literature by a younger self, Poland is a dark, menacing place, a land of terrible facts, its streets paved with the headstones culled from graves of the defenseless. A land fertilized with the ash of innocents. A malignant evil to be forgotten, but always remembered.

The indelible stigma stuck. If I were ever to journey to that land, it would be to reclaim a Jewish pride once lost by the downcast countenances of the Nazis’ dehumanized victims. Pride, I felt, that would be restored with an indignant stare at a neighbor who once stood idly by, saying with my speechless eyes more than a million spoken words.

But now I feel only the silence of the unwritten word. Rays of shining sun are splashing over our car, and in a freshly cut field a lone stork nibbles on leftovers from the recent harvest. A growing stink wafting through the window relays the smell of freshly laid fertilizer. I notice the decrepit roads of yesteryear quickly turning into the smooth highways we so take for granted in America.

In a rebuilt Warsaw, flashy Mercedes racing through the streets, buses a most awful shade of yellow. The Tower of Culture looms over the city’s skyline, a vapid and weird present from Comrade Stalin to the people of Poland, the ugly bastard child of a forgotten marriage. A funny communion of old and new can be seen on every street corner. New, brightly lit grocery stores with the unlikely sight of babushkas selling sad bunches of wilted scallions and bouquets of summer flowers in their doorways. Sleek 18-wheeler milk trucks stopped dead in their tracks by a lone milking cow slowly trudging across the road.

And so I found myself walking through Sieradz, my grandmother’s town, a town found only by a most circuitous route from Warsaw, oh so calmly.

Our translator “shibbitzed” (a term coined in light of the prevalent “shibing” that is found in just about every Polish word) with an older couple, lounging on a lazy Sunday afternoon with family. “You want to talk with the old man up the road, he remembers the Nazis,” the husband says.

I strained to understand the quick chatter between the translator and the old man. Spittle flying from his mouth and a lone tooth had me fixated. “When they came, the Jews were quickly herded into a small ghetto; no communication or trade was allowed.” Though interesting, the story of ghettoization was one I’d heard many times.

But then, swallowing hard, he began tell the story of the final Aktion (“operation”). “We weren’t all bad, we tried to help.” A small gasp, a trickle of a tear. “The red church you saw in the middle of town had its doors locked, all of Sieradz’s Jews crammed inside.” Wiping his finger across his nose, as tears streamed more steadily down his face. “The doors were locked for two weeks, screams and cries of thirst haunting the whole town. When they finally opened the door a stench spewed from inside, feces and dead bodies sprawled about in a cadence of horror. But slowly and unbelievably, a child staggered out, his face pallid and white, the face of death.” By now the old man’s face was a wet mess as he wept the horrible memory. “A SS man nonchalantly walked up to the child, and grabbing him by his legs, flung him onto the street in the path of a passing army jeep.”

Parched wind pushed loudly through the car’s open window, draining whatever remained of the day’s energies, as I thought over the day’s experiences. Realizing, slowly, that I did not need to look upon Bubby’s neighbors with righteous indignation, as the burning shame of passivity was alive and well, sixty years later, without my stare. Crystallizing slowly over time has been the singular obligation of telling the story of that child’s last moments. Though not dissimilar to the ending of the rest of the six million, every record is a truth, and I doubt that this nameless child has been remembered since his horrible death. May this record be his kaddish.