On the news, a story about Auschwitz. A photo of the entrance and the sign Arbeit Macht Frei. And I think, I’ve been there.

A decision, I will not cry. I know what to expect. The gruesome images of piles and piles of shoes, of hair. I’m familiar with these. I’ve taught this.

There will be no tears. I demand of my heart, no tears at Auschwitz

I am wrong.

At Majdanek, first. Entering the camp, the outskirts are mind-numbing. Apartment buildings and well-kept homes surround the grounds. If one didn’t know, this could be anyplace. Porches overlook the testimony of horror. It is Poland today. What took place here serves as the backdrop for daily lives going strong, for children tossing a ball. Never mind the screams of ashes right around the corner.

Majdanek was a rough draft. A learning curve. The walls of the gas chambers must be shortened for maximum efficiency. The gas chambers themselves systematically moved closer to the crematoriums. Here, victims were unloaded; here, they changed; here, they were brutalized. And here, they perished. Our guide says: “Listen to the silence of their whispers.” In the stillness, I see only horror.

At the crematoriums, the SS built baths. The extreme heat made for wonderful saunas. At the crematorium, Kaddish is recited in a loud, beautiful and pained voice.

There are tears. Everyone cries.

I demand of my heart, no tears at Auschwitz. The entrance has a gift shop, a Chinese eatery. Postcards. I turn away. There will not be tears.

Following the train tracks, I enter. By one cattle car, Israeli soldiers are gathered, the flag of Israel not blowing in the windless, scorching-hot day, but held proudly. How ironic. How beautiful. In the depth of hell, Jewish pride remains intact.

The hair—heaps and heaps of it, now faded brownish gray from age. The shoes. Little slippers worn by babies, a woman’s high heel, a work boot. Jews were a commodity. Everything could be used, reused, turned into something else, something better. Something German. There are no tears.

The latrines—slabs of concrete with perfectly centered holes and buckets. I bite my lip. The mountains of keys and shoe polish. Only those truly expecting to unlock them, lock their doors. Suitcases with names carefully painted on. To locate them when we leave. Not knowing where they were going, still they took shoe polish. One needs to be their best for Shabbat. Not knowing where they are going, yet there must be Shabbat.

There are tears.

On the wall of one of the women’s barracks, a long-ago faded clock drawn by hands that ached for some sort of reminder that the world still moves.

Different kinds of stories of heroes.

Those who attempted the impossible and resisted as long asThe pain cannot be grasped possible. Those who clawed for a piece of bread, only to give it to a pregnant woman they did not know. A grandmother who sang to the child in her arms during the last millisecond of life.

Different kinds of heroes.

Warsaw had been flattened by the Nazis after the Resistance. But Krakow remains. On the cobbled stone streets, one can so clearly picture little kids playing, mothers calling from open windows: “Watch your brother, come inside! Tatte will be home any minute.” The Jews that were. The lives extinguished. Krakow burns with ghosts.

There are tears. For all that was. For all that was slaughtered. For the pain that cannot be grasped or imagined.

We do not comprehend. We cannot. Some things, are completely un-understandable.

But we cry.

And wait for Moshiach