paying our respects

Friday, September 28, 2012

This week we took a short train ride to a memorial site in Paneriai out in the woods, just outside of our city, where there were mass killings during WWII.  

Here there's an estimated 100,000 people that were brought, lined up and shot, put into mass graves, and then later burned to hide the evidence. 
There were 4 or 5 large circles areas like this where people were shot and buried.
This was where they burned the bodies to hide the evidence towards the end of the war. They used this bridge to carry the body and dump into the middle of the fire. 
They had a little museum area with stories and pictures that were horrifying to see.  But its one of those things where your stomach churns and you're in disbelief but you can't look away.  I read of diary where someone wrote just about every day "4 or 5,000 brought in today.  Shots were heard in the woods for 8 hours straight"  "women and children" "sick and elderly", etc.  We also read an account or 4 or 5 men who were brought to the camp and were put on the job of burning the bodies.  They were to stay in a bunker at night and were highly guarded.  They talked about how, in an effort to escape, they start tunneling out each night.  They ran into lots of problems along the way like keeping the top from caving in and not having enough oxygen down there.  But all of them managed to escape after a few months of digging.  That was an amazing story to read.  

It was such a beautiful place in the woods with a peaceful feeling despite the terrible things that happened there.  The hardest part to imagine is that it didn't happen that long ago.  

We all know about the more famous places like Auschwitz, but there are camps like this all over Lithuania and other countries as well.  They're just not as well known.  We were at this memorial all by ourselves. It was even really hard to find, I tried to google the site to see how to get there and there just wasn't hardly any information about it.  I know there's probably so many people that live just 10 minutes from this place and for whatever reason, haven't visited.  We're going to Auschwitz in a couple of weeks and as heavy as that sounds, I'm so excited for that opportunity.

On a lighter note, we had awhile to kill waiting for the train to take us back to the city so I took a video to capture the moment.  

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