On February 4, 2018, Crif organized a memory trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. More than 200 people participated in this exceptional day, which marked everyone's memories. A delegation of officials and public figures also accompanied the president of Crif, Francis Kalifat. Throughout the week, Crif invites you to live or relive this memorable journey so that we become all the witnesses of the witnesses.
12am, entrance to the Auschwitz Memorial Camp I. After the numerous instructions from the guides, everyone prepares himself as he can for what awaits him. We go down silently from the bus and head, staggering in the thick snow, towards the entrance to the Auschwitz I camp.
Many groups are there too and rush to the security gates to pass. The instruction is givent to wait a moment, to let the first visitors enter. We gather in small groups, in a circle, feet sunk in the snow, arms crossed over the breasts to warm up. Some get impatient and wonder what is expected, planted there without knowing why.
A little further, two young girls talk with one of the guides from the memorial. They also wonder about the waiting. But not about ours, not about today's. No, they wonder about the hours of expectation experienced by each deportee, every minute of every hour spent at the camp, without knowing what would be done next. The guide explains that at the descent of the cattle cars, most of the deportees were relieved and rushed with enthusiasm on the roads indicated by the SS. "They had finally arrived at their destination. It was now a question of rebuilding a home, of reforming a semblance of life. Many could not imagine what was about to happen.
Later in the day, we discover the Juden Ramp, a few hundred meters from the Auschwitz II - Birkenau camp. It is on this railroad ramp that the majority of French Jews arrived until the spring of 1944. The guides keep repeating that it is on this ramp that all that we know of selections happened. "Not on the famous rails that enter the camp Birkenau and everyone has the image in mind," they say repeatedly. "This ramp there served from the summer of 1944 only, for the arrival of Hungarian Jews."
"Well, no matter where they arrived, no ...? Whispered a teenager in her mother's ear.
Today, the Juden Ramp is spotted by a cattle wagon placed where the death trains finish their journey in a final screeching on the frozen rails.
We learn the precise and regular mechanisms of selection. We learn luck, and bad luck to be sent from one side or the other. We learn the cries and tears of children separated from their father or mother. We learn the pain of the husbands who look into each other's eyes for the last time. We learn horror and bestiality.
At the end of our visit of Auschwitz II - Birkenau, in the afternoon, our guides take us to the Sauna, this space dedicated to the disinfection of the deportees, their mowing and the tattooing process. These are men who have entered here. At their exit, only a few tattooed numbers remained on their side, sometimes on their arms.
Doors after doors, rooms after rooms, they waited. Looking for a room a little more heated, a less steep floor or a trickle of water less hot, they waited. Standing, feet in the snow for hours, they waited.
But what were they waiting for? Do we have the strength to wait for something that never comes? Ginette Kolinka, survivor of Auschwitz who does us the honor of his company during this trip, has no answer. "I do not know what made us hold, I can not explain it."
To explain the strength of expectation, to explain the inexplicable, even in the most skeptical minds, the word "miracle" resonates as an evidence.