Friday, June 23, 2017


In 2003, we took several people to Europe with us, friends of our children, family, and even my Mom and Dad. We were heading to Christina's wedding and wanted our close peops with us. We must have been a promoter's nightmare, cruising into catering with an entourage that would make any rocker strut! Crossing the countries off the itinerary, we eventually arrived in Austria with a day off. I decided it was time for Mom to face her past journey, and the kids to learn about mankind's mistakes. We made the journey up the mountain to Mauthausen Concentration Camp, the camp my Mother and her family had been kidnapped and taken to, in the early 1940's.

As we drove up the hill in the bus, Mom told us how the road was dirt when she last walked up it, carrying her younger brother on her back, piggy backed. Houses were along the road and people were hanging out the windows yelling at them as they walked. They couldn't understand them because they didn't know the German language at the time. They had no clue where they were being forced to go. When they got to the top, a large foreboding stone structure with barbed wire everywhere, awaited them.

They were put through the routine of admitting and were shown a large tent for the Russians to stay in. The beds were up off the ground so the rats scurried under you, instead of on you, while you slept. People were stuffed everywhere. They were told nothing of why they were there or how long they would be there. In the day they would be shown tasks or told to sit in one spot. If you turned your head, you were shot. The toilet was a big hole in the ground with Nazi guards around it, watching you. The food was a weak broth with a sausage that everyone thought was human flesh. Occasionally, they were given beer and bread that often had wood chips in it. Mom recalled that one day, the guards came and took 2 girls with flawless skin and they never returned. People whispered that they used their skin for lampshades.

I try to imagine what my Grandmother felt like, having her 6 children with her in a frikken concentration camp!! When I get stressed, I think of her, and any stress I have is wimpy compared to hers! Taking Mom back was a feeling I can't explain. She survived. After 3 months, the Nazis relocated them to a forced labor camp in Nurnberg. It wasn't comfortable by any means, but it wasn't a concentration camp!

As soon as we walked in with Mom, she said she had to go see what something was. She said she could always see smoke rising from the ground in a certain area, and she lead us straight to where the pit of ashes of cremated people were! On the way, she passed by a barracks with glass windows. She stopped and said "this is where I learned the word, Baby! This window was full of American GI's." We were shocked, as we had never thought about Americans being in there!

On the way out, after reminiscing the horrors and survival Mom had been through, we decided to stop in the small gift shop and get some pamphlets. The people working said Mom was the first woman survivor they had ever met. They said that occasionally men who survived Mauthausen would revisit and they were grateful to know that some families had made it out alive.

It was a somber ride back down the mountain. Talk of being transported in trains with only a pile of straw in the corner for a toilet, starving and eating an SS guard's cat, and eventually slaving in a factory, making parts for hand grenades, engulfed the rest of our day. We, as educated people, must make sure this madness never happens again! I am not sure humans have learned a lesson, though...there seems to be some craziness brewing worldwide again! In the days to come, on the tour, Little Igor's birthday was approaching. We all had much to celebrate and be grateful for. We were alive to see it! Let's keep the planet on track....

Class dismissed....