By Madeline Herrup, Brandeis University

Memory is no longer what it used to be.
Memory is no longer eyes,
Nor ears,
Nor smells,
Memory is not a presence felt anymore it seems.
Memory is only photography.
Memory is only media,
Shared media.
Lack thereof.
The world is changing.
Our memory is changing.
Memory itself is no longer the same.
I remember walking onto the grounds of Auschwitz I.
I remember walking through the entrance,
Taking a picture of “arbeit macht frei” (work will set you free),
Then looking back wishing I had stood longer.
Or maybe I wished I had taken a better photo who knows.
Our minds redefine memory.
Memory is not to me what it is to another.
Photography helps us remember.
Photography tells others what we remember.
Photography tells us what we don’t remember.
Photography redefines memory.
Media redefines memory.
Mass media.
Social media.
Thumbs up.

How much does memory really matter?
When I stood outside Block 11 in Auschwitz I known for torture,
What is the memory?
When I walked in between barracks in the rain with my umbrella dangling by my side,
What is the memory?
When I saw the barbed wire, the fences of barbed wire,
What is the memory?
When our guide had to keep reminding us,
“Respect and honor those who suffered and died in this camp”.
What is the memory?
When I stared out the window as if for hours into the courtyards of green grass with tiny flowers,
Rain turning into dew drops,
Then I have to take out my phone for my memory….
Is this media consuming my memory?
I gave myself that moment but I couldn’t just walk away.
I stood at the entrance but couldn’t simply enter.
I stood on the sidewalks of lopsided bricks coated in mud with my umbrella by my side,
I can stand in the rain for a few hours for I know then I can leave,
I can leave,
I can see,
I can listen,
And yet I cannot remember.
Well, I can but you see media makes memory complicated.
Media makes memory a contest,
Who can write the best Instagram caption to an entrance that was a lie.
Who can speak the most profound words thus gain the most likes, the most attention,
Oh wait, that’s not how social media works.
Words don’t matter when “arbeit macht frei” is in the perfect lighting,
Perfect angle,
Maybe a glimpse of the muddy pathway.
That will gain the most attention.
What is media doing to memory?
What are the true memories when I am only looking on my phone screen in a snapshot moment?
What is the memory when I could not stand and remember it?
What is the memory when I try to just stand,
Stand still,
Stand still in the in the pouring rain of Auschwitz I?
What is the memory when every person has a phone in hand,
A camera in hand,
Does a memory come or does it go from the mind?
Does the essence of memory change when the picture of a red rose written into the barbed wire of an electric fence becomes a symbol of hope,
of faith,
Or wait maybe that could make for a perfect Instagram post.
Instagram is not real life, though.
Media is not memory.
Photography is part of memory but,
Memory is so much more.
Memory is emotion.
Memory is sensations.
Memory is writings, photographs, objects, testimonies, voices,
Memory comes with a presence.
Memory is a dense presence.
Memory is knowing the glow of a red rose did not exist in Auschwitz I.
Memory is understanding what it means to be able to see, to listen, to smell,
Then to leave.
Memory is scary.
Memory is what we may wish to not call memory but we must.

Memory is standing in the middle of the pouring rain of Auschwitz I, phone in my bag, headphones off, tourists tuned out,
Memory is standing with yourself in the space of memory and knowing that it is
Knowing that it was,
Knowing that it will be what we allow the world to make it be.
Memory does not hold up a mirror and make everything clear because life is no simple thought.
Memory gives what modern media takes,
No Instagram post can envision what it means to stand still,
To be still.
To be still in the midst of a space, of a memory no human wishes to be still with but still is,
Still with the thoughts.
Still with the memory.
To be still,
Then to leave but #neverforget.

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