Bringing history into the present: Sir Martin’s preparation for the Journey

Photo:  Sir Martin’s photo of the single-track line leading to Auschwitz from the cover of his first edition

380 words / 1 ½ minute read

The material I prepared for the journey related to the history of the places we would visit, both before and during the war.  We would be in cities and towns which had experienced an important and creative Jewish past, as well as destruction.  We would also be making our way to the sites of ghettos, concentration camps and death camps, where the written and oral evidence that has survived was painful to read out.  The plan was for me to read aloud from letters, documents and memoirs that related to what had happened at the places we were visiting or passing through.

It took several months of preparation, working out a detailed itinerary, and finding the archival material, and memoirs, that related to each town we would visit, and to the streets we would walk along.  As well as the death camps established by the Germans on Polish soil, we would be visiting Germany, and the Czech and Slovak Republics.  I planned to be in cities, towns and villages where Jewish life had been prosperous, and also those where it had been poor:  places where Jews had been accepted and places where they had been persecuted; places where they had lived for generations, and places to which they had been deported after swift and cruel uprootings.

We stopped in many places in our fourteen days, and went through many more where we did not have time to stop, but had time (in train and bus) to read and reflect.  Sometimes a road sign would tell us that ten or twenty kilometres off our route was a place with a Jewish past, and we would talk about it.  Each day, the events of the Holocaust determined our itinerary, but did not always dominate it; we were glimpsing at all times the history of Jewish communities, some of which dated back many hundreds of years, and in several cases more than a thousand years.

I have added to the text of the diary a few thoughts and comments – clearly indicated as such – from letters which members of the group sent me after our return, about specific moments on the journey.  I have also brought together some of their reflections in the epilogue, which I compiled during our frequent reunions.

From Sir Martin’s Introduction

 Read: Holocaust Journey

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