Around two-hundred people walk along a sidewalk parallel to train tracks. I’m in the middle, in Otwock outside Warsaw. A blonde-haired girl, around eight, chats with her mother. A young bearded man holding a bullhorn leads the way. Crossing to the other side of the tracks, the group gathers around the man with the bullhorn. He talks, but gets cut off when train-announcements blare from speakers. He waits, then describes what happened on this patch of ground in 1942, when Nazi soldiers and policemen drove around eight thousand people––from a square close by, wired off inside the ‘ghetto,’–– toward the tracks and onto the cattle cars, headed for Treblinka. The Nazis shot anyone who resisted.
The Germans promised the Jewish policemen their families would be spared. But Calel Perachodnik watched horrified, as his wife and daughter were loaded into the last cattle car, along with families of other policemen. Only one man clambered in with his family.
Close to me, a man with a razor hair-cut and arm tattoos stands transfixed. The little girl grips her mother’s hand.