In the year 2000, I was a senior in high school. I was the odd one out at school but I was accepted at religious school and temple youth group. There was a presentation about a special trip called the March of the Living. The March of the Living was for high school students to visit the sites of the Holocaust and Israel. It was to experience oppression and liberation at a young age. Reading about the atrocities of the Holocaust is much different than visiting the sites where all the horrific events took place.
One part of the trip stands out to me. I was looking around Midonik, a death camp in Poland. I saw the barracks where people were kept. There was one full of shoes. These shoes were stolen from the people who were rounded up like cattle. They were chained to the beds unless the guards unlocked the chains.
Photo was taken by my 17-year-old self
When I walked into the barracks, I saw all the shoes encased by glass on the beds. I felt completely withdrawn. I felt like I had left my body. I was hearing the screams and voices of the victims. It completely took me over. The air was thick and the emotions were so overwhelming, I collapsed. I remained there with a vivid image in my head of what happened exactly where I stood.
I could not help to imagine what they were feeling, who they were separated from and what horrific fate waits for them at this horrid place. All these emotions were taking over my body.
One of the chaperones found me a few minutes later. This I know now was autistic shutdown. This was when I was 17 years old. I was diagnosed as autistic at 32. I am 38 now. I remember it like it happened yesterday.
I have vivid nightmares of this exact scene.
Why did I take this trip when I was warned of extreme emotions? I always wanted to feel like others did, even as a child. How would I fully understand what happened if I did not go?