Reading about members of the England team’s recent visit to Auschwitz I felt angry. Why did only seven members of the team go? What were the others doing? Then I discovered that the other fifteen had visited Schindler’s factory. But it didn’t make me feel much better.
I wondered what went through their minds when they were offered the choice of death camp or factory. Wayne Rooney said of Auschwitz: “You have to see it first hand to understand and of course it puts football into perspective.”
What is my own anger about? It’s because I believe the “15” chose to avoid the challenge of facing up to the darkest parts of the human psyche as embodied by Auschwitz, which is not the same as a factory visit.
What I needed to hear was that the Auschwitz visitors were “shaken” by what they witnessed such as the piles of victims hair. A dear friend who visited recently talks about how “it stays in you, it is like a nightmare you can’t wake from”. You see they have a choice, my people didn’t and I cannot escape from it.
What bothered me about the factory visit is that they went and had a look and like so many visitors, could so easily forget about it as if they had been to Madame Tussauds or a London museum. Clearly this is not at all fair on them, players or visitors. But it reminds me how deep the river of pain flows through me and through modern Jewish culture.
It also reminds me how separate the existence of these footballers is from the reality of austerity, unemployment and the sheer grind of daily life for so many of the population.
Despite my own personal anger stimulated on reading these news reports, on reflection, I am glad the England players made the effort to visit Auschwitz and the factory – and especially pleased for Wayne Rooney.