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Poland Part III: Epilogue

01.31.20

I was born in the United States, but because my grandfather is from Poland, I am also from Poland.

It is the place where the stories of my family have their roots. It is the place where I can trace the beginnings of my own love of music, and the place where my family’s history was ended, cut short when they were murdered in the Warsaw ghetto.

For me and my grandfather, music sustains us. And for my grandfather, it quite literally saved his life. When I hear my grandfather sing, I hear my history come alive, I see the family that I never knew, and I feel the connection to the traditions of a people someone tried to erase. By going on this journey and returning to Poland, with my grandfather and the family that he continued, I honor the past, and I sing for the future.

There are so many more things I want to tell you.
But for now, I encourage you to read my grandfather’s memoir: www.onevoicetwolives.com
and if you want to go back and revisit Poland with us, you can see my previous entries on this blog: #MyPolishWisnia

In Hebrew, when we celebrate, we often say “L’chayim” – “To Life.” Because we know that in the face of being denied the right to exist, the greatest act of defiance is to live.

it’s good to be home.

#MyPolishWisnia


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Poland Part III: Day 6

01.29.20

Our journey through Poland to commemorate 75 years since the Holocaust has been moving & profound. There is such complicated and tragic history of the Jewish people here, but there is also joy and music and hope. We will return again. Dziękuję Bardzo – Thank You, my friends.


“My grandchildren are the proof that Hitler did not succeed,” said David Wisnia, Cantor, Auschwitz survivor.

“During the Holocaust, my grandfather experienced a lot of horror and torture, and also the most devastating loneliness. He lost his whole family,” Avi said. So it was particularly meaningful for his family members to be return with him to Poland, 75 years later. “He will never need to know what that feels like again. He will always have his family, and we will always be there for him.” [READ MORE]


#MyPolishWisnia: The Documentary

As my grandfather returned to Poland 75 years later, this talented crew has been filming him and the family as we rediscover our history. Stay tuned for director Sara Taksler’s film, coming later this year.

#MyPolishWisnia


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Poland Part III: Day 4

01.27.20

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, my grandfather sang in front of this stone building, the Death Gate to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is a profound experience to be here in Auschwitz, commemorating the Holocaust, as a family. We are three generations bearing witness to the horrors my grandfather survived. And as hard as it is to be here, as hard as it has been to make this journey, it is important. If the Nazis were successful, none of us would be here. But we are here. And we are here for all those who cannot be here. We will not be erased.


“Children and grandchildren walked beside survivors or pushed their wheelchairs into buildings made of brick and hatred, proof that the Nazis couldn’t turn every family, every future, to ash.

‘I feel a great responsibility,’ grandson Avi Wisnia said at a survivor dinner Sunday night in Kraków. “My grandfather’s story is my story. It’s the story of my family. I’m very aware that when he dies, I need to keep the memory alive, and the story alive, and these experiences alive.’

David Wisnia, a longtime cantor, stood before the crowd, the gates of Auschwitz behind him. Long ago, the Nazi guards took a liking to his voice, and it kept his future alive. He sang a prayer for the dead, then the Mourner’s Kaddish. Survivors sang along and cried.

Avi stood beside him, a singer like his grandfather.” [READ MORE]


It is important to hear about the Holocaust from those who experienced it, now, while we still can.

You can still watch the 75th Anniversary ceremony. Use this english-language LINK to watch the entire event. Listen to several survivors speak about the Holocaust, in their own words, and hear my grandfather sing at hour 2:25 [WATCH]

David Wisnia & Family, featured on PBS News Hour [WATCH]

 

#MyPolishWisnia


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Poland Part III: Day 3

01.26.20

January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. Dignitaries, heads of state, and 200 survivors will attend to commemorate the event in Poland, while millions will watch the live broadcast around the world. Cantor David S. Wisnia will return to the site of his imprisonment to sing a memorial prayer – to sing as he did many times when he was a prisoner in the camp, now 75 years later as a survivor.

the event can be live-streamed at www.auschwitz.org


Imagine Hell. Now imagine being rescued from hell, and returning. I can’t. I am trying very very hard, and I can’t. I am on a bus about to enter Auschwitz-Birkenau, watching my grandfather pass by the wooden-shelf bunks where he slept as a prisoner in the concentration camp for 3 years of his life, and I can’t even imagine. Can you?

This will be my grandfather’s last visit to Auschwitz. It has been a hard journey and there are many times we thought our Saba was not going to be able to make the trip at all. But it was important for him to visit once again. 75 years later.

There were many years where he did not talk about the horrors of the Holocaust. Not to his family. Not to anyone. But slowly, over time, he has been willing to tell the story. and as he has gotten older, there has been a growing necessity to finally talk about all that happened to him. There is a sense of urgency, that he be able to tell his story with his own voice. Most of all, he wants you to know he was here.



Auschwitz at Night

#MyPolishWisnia


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