Lodz was a complete surprise. We went to Lodz to visit the ghetto and see where two of the survivors had lived before the war. As we pulled into town, we stopped at the train station used by the Nazi’s that is now a museum and memorial. We saw an entire German train complete with the original engine and three boxes. The station had the actual German exportation papers (encased in plexiglass) that you can research and we looked for the families’ of our survivors. They had a monument that included tombstones for the different camps that people were sent to from the station. The size of the stone represented the number of deaths. It was very humbling.

When we arrived, we drove through the town and it looked very run down. Lodz was an industrial town with lots of factories which have all closed down because of competition from Asia. We started to get worried about our hotel…..it looked very scary…but when we went to the section of town where our hotel was, it was nice. We checked in, and went down to a street that was redone for art and shopping. It was very nice and we discovered a lot of culture. We had authentic Polish food and I discovered that the new thing in Lodz was the Silent Disco. Since this didn’t make any sense to me, a few of us arranged to go. Our guides first took us to a traditional disco so we could compare..the disco played weird edits of American popular music edited into disco beats (In the mood, rock around the clock, runaround sue, etc). Finally, the Silent Disco opened….it was in the middle of a parking lot, two DJs were there. You gave your ID and some money to the table and they gave you a pair of wireless headphones with three channels. Everyone was dancing silently in the parking lot. You put on the headphones and you and your friends decide which channels to dance together on….if the mix starts to get bad, you switch channels. Smoking is still a big thing here, and many, if not most Poles smoke. There are no smoking laws.

The next day we traveled to the largest Jewish Cemetery in the world (almost 100 acres). The cemetery was all overgrown because of a variety of reasons. We found one of the Toledo survivor’s graves and cleared the area and cleaned it up. Afterwards, we donated time helping a group of volunteers clear an area of the cemetery. I was assigned to run brush…the group was attempting to cut down trees with rose pruners. I asked why they didn’t have a saw and they said there was no money…all the tools had been donated. I donated some money for a handsaw. When we got back, we went to a mall made from an old factory. We took a factory tour and discovered it was one of the largest textile factories in the world that closed in 1997. It was redesigned by a French firm as an upscale mall with lots of fancy restaurants. At night, we took a walking tour of the city (from an artist who organizes events).

The next day, it rained. Some of the group went to the Lodz archives to do research. Since I can not read Polish (or German), I decided to explore ghetto sites I found in a walking tour pamphlet. I got directions to the former Gestapo Headquarters and headed out. Before I left, I went to a store to buy some clothes to better blend in. I got a pair of Polish style jeans and a jacket (I didn’t expect it to be so cold). The walk was long. On the way, I found the ghetto wall and the place where the ghetto bridge had been. I crossed the street where the bridge had been and entered the ghetto. That was a dark deep feeling. The ghetto was in the run down section. I walked through it (getting lost multiple times) and finally found gestapo headquarters, which is now a pharmacy. My feet were soaked, so I decided to go back to the Manufktury (factory mall). I thought I knew the correct way, but ended up getting lost in Communist residential housing for almost two hours. I finally found the mall, had Polish Indian food (it was OK) and returned to the hotel. When I arrived, we had a debriefing meeting and then we went out for dinner at a Polish Turkish joint.

The next day, July 1, we left Lodz and traveled to a small town where one of our survivors had been attending school. The Nazis destroyed the town because it was 60% Jewish before the war. There are no Jews living there now. We went to a museum where the guide was half historian and half fortune teller. He asked for a volunteer to read my fortune and I volunteered. He told me that I was a star and that it is easy for people to like me. The museum had the entire town’s history…including a bunker with German and Polish collaborator uniforms in it. We ate pizza in the town and set off on another long bus ride to visit an icon and its church. The church was breathtaking…..one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. I learned a lot about Pope John II (he was Polish and born near the church) and Polish history. We loaded back on the bus and finally arrived in Krakow. We are staying in the same resort that the SS used for vacations (which is a strange feeling). We watched the US football game…..the US lost….and I went to my room and recorded a rough demo of Robo Bootie (Roboty).