The bricks of Auschwitz

I cannot go to Auschwitz

I cannot go

The narrow red-brown bricks bar me

The Auschwitz bricks are iconic, immutable

Year after year, decade after decade they stand there, mocking

Witnesses to suffering, death

I cannot go to Auschwitz

I would stand there, immobile, unable to proceed

The bricks would stop me

Hissing, almost silent voices say “We saw everything”

We heard everything

And here we stand

My grandparents, my mother and her sister

After arrival that late spring day, the eldest sister heard that the youngest two were in the camp

She found them, threw treasured food over the fence

The electrified fence.

The fence that so terrified my mother

With its barbed wire and curled finger posts

My mother was fading, fading

Her sister gave her bread

“You take it,” she said. “I’m not hungry.”

“She could have eaten it with her eyes,” my mother later said

The bricks saw the dying bodies, felt the acrid smoke, heard the anguished cries, prayers

And the bricks did nothing

No, I cannot see the bricks

Auschwitz is a vast cemetery

Not a sacred cemetery of honored military heroes or beloved elders

But a cemetery filled with children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, neighbors, ripped from life, untimely dead

Their souls hover above the ash filled ground, stopped only by the impenetrable red-brown bricks

And the bricks say “Do not enter here”

And I obey