Treblinka

Treblinka.

To be at this former death camp is to experience a profound sense of being watched while watching.

I am alone, having arrived after hours. There aren't gates, so I wander freely through the various camp locations like the extermination area, the labor camp and barracks, and the gravel pit where prisoners worked under horrifying conditions.

There is nothing left of any buildings, just feelings and sensations that linger in between my thoughts and breath and the movement of my feet.

It is difficult to stay here; to engage with the sparsely placed placards of information and absorb the magnitude of suffering is beyond overwhelming.

I want to go, to run to the safety of my car and the freeway just down the old bumpy road.

But I stay, with my heart in my throat and all my senses alert.

What you can't see in this photo is the sprawling flatness that once held the labor camp. It spreads behind me, pitted earth with cement foundations marking where the barracks once held the prisoners - all of whom were doomed to certain death.

Surrounding all sides of the field is thick forest, a curtain of trees separating the memory of horror from our modern world.

I'm standing at the edge of deeply hollowed and sloping earth, and the placard next to me says this was the SS guards' swimming pool.

The sun is beginning to dip behind the density of trees.

Birds are singing, and the smell is earthy and rich, like the forests near my hometown in Northern California.

I am so alone and so not alone all at the same time.

I am pulled in and pushed out.

Eventually, I leave.