Day 6

8 Jul

Today my Grandmother takes me to Panerei. It’s a peaceful place. Pine cones litter the ground and birds chirp. In this place there are four monuments to the 100,000 murdered by Nazis in this forest–a Polish monument, a Lithuanian monument, a Jewish monument and a monument for everyone.

In memory of 70,000 Jews killed here

There is one other car in the parking lot.

We meet four Polish women. One lives four kilometres away and has never been here before.

She looks at me and says: “Young people are not interested in history.” (My Grandmother translated this for me later).

My Grandmother laughs.

There are four large holes in the ground; I’m told there were originally eight. Pre-WWII Soviet troops had dug out these holes for fuel. In 1941 the Nazis found them and decided to use them to keep and kill prisoners. The last of these holes was four metres deep and was the home of the 80 odd Jews who burned and smashed the bodies of fellow prisoners before sifting their ashes for valuables (a gold tooth might reveal itself).

The brigade dug a tunnel and of about 80, and on Easter, they ran for it. Thirteen escaped and lived on as eyewitnesses.

At the entrance to the hole where the brigade resided I stand. I can’t say anything. The guide looks me up and down, but says nothing.

Entrance to the Brigade's hole

As we turn back toward the car, I ask my Grandmother if she knew anyone who died in this camp.

“Yes,” she says as if I should already know.

She tells me her mother’s mother and sister were killed in this place, as well as her father’s father. I don’t ask her about her friends.

Later she asks me if I have any questions. I change the conversation back to the present.

It’s too much for one day.

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