Even as a student aspiring to be a scholar of the history of the Holocaust, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw at Bronnaya Gora: an ordinary clearing in Belarus where 54,000 Jews were brutally murdered. There was no doubt in my mind that I was standing at the epicenter of the Holocaust.
On Tuesday, I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp complex, yet my emotions at Bronnaya Gora were much stronger: I was chilled to the bone and I often found myself asking the question of “why?” Why does the world ignore these shooting sites while only focusing on camps, why would any human being resort to such cruelty and savagery, and why would Nazi forces and their collaborators turn all of Eastern Europe into a graveyard.
I am a Jew, I walked the paths of the Jews of Brest today, and I take the oath of never again. Never will I stand for injustice, never will I stand by while innocent people are being destroyed, and never will I forget the lives and culture of the Jews who were heinously murdered at Bronnaya Gora.
What Father Desbois and Yahad-In-Unum are doing is essential to securing the memory of these victims, lost in the deep chasm that is the Holocaust. When you walk through the gates of Auschwitz you see cases filled with shoes, hair, and suitcases, but when you walk into the shooting site of Bronnaya Gora, you are faced with the horrifying realization that few people remember the Jews of Brest.