The notion of getting in a vehicle and traveling from Krakow to Oświęcim is one that haunts thousands of visitors to Poland every year. It reminds us of the infamous cattle cars shipping the Nazi's victims to their deaths, and of the saying "All roads lead to Auschwitz." But their is a constant struggle between the memory of the Holocaust and the reality of modern day Poland. For both visitors and locals.
It wasn't my first time on this road. In 2000 I participated in the March of the Living, a Holocaust education program where thousands of Jewish high-schoolers travel to Poland and Israel for two weeks. The trip to Auschwitz was tense; images of suffering crossed my mind as we rambled through the countryside.
Ten years later I have a more nuanced perspective. The relationship between Poland and remnants of the Holocaust is extremely complex. A trip to the town of Oświęcim now is a window into past, present, and future.
Sitting in the back of a mini-bus, my only view outside was through a clearing in the fogged window. Making a photo was a matter of reacting within a split second. Sensory memory refers the first milliseconds the brain has to interpret something it sees without recording it. This process made me hyper focused on the moment, with no factors clouding my instincts. Yet the images may feel distant, disconnected or represent echoes of the past.