By Cheyenne Paris, Brandeis University

Who will stand witness?
A town an hour west from the city
On an afternoon at the end of May
So close to summer,
the taste is on the air.
The blue of the sky reflected in the eyes of those
walking the cobblestones
biking the narrow streets
framed by buildings
two, three,
four stories.
Standing sentinel over the square
painted to match the spirit of the town.
Pale pinks and yellows color the fronts
vibrant blues and reds tile the roofs.
Windows larger than life
Set in trims of bright green and crisp white
Look down on the trees.
Manicured to perfection
erect in rows.
Next to umbrellas and awnings
under which sit
the keepers of a dark past
dressed up as a European hamlet
in a picturesque scene from postcards sent home.
What is unseen
lies between the stones
that pave the streets.
Secrets like stains
as irremovable as blood from cloth
Persistence in their determination to stand witness.
For who else but the ghosts of this town
Will remember
the ash which once rained.
The souls who once marched
laden with their world on their backs
with children in their arms.
For those who gawked from their windows,
set in trims of bright green and crisp white
did nothing.

For those who now walk these street
it is but a blip.
A few years of unpleasantness
otherwise overshadowed
by the beauty in the buildings
and the trees
and the narrow streets.
Reminiscent of a time before
the yellow stars
the brown shirts
the chaos of the unknown.
I walk this square.
As a conspicuous tourist
Easily unsheathing my camera to capture
the pale pinks and yellows
the vibrant blues and reds.
Yet laden with the knowledge of what took place
Just outside of this square
Just beyond these streets
How can I capture the ghosts?
The ash?
The souls?
For who else will stand witness
But I?

This post is part of series of articles written by participants on our “We Will Write Our History” writing seminar in Auschwitz. Learn more at