9/19/02

Sobibor

7 a.m. Slawek and Radek come by the Hotel Europa to pick me up, and give me a few minutes to enjoy breakfast downstairs. I love food in Poland. I love food in Europe. They eat REAL food in Europe. It grows out of the ground. It has flavor. REAL food.

We have a quick stop at a college building in Lublin, near the hotel. This was where Operation Reinhard’s main offices were located, overseen by Odilo Globocnik.

I really wish that your computer could read Polish characters because I’m typing words that can’t be properly read. Maybe I’ll stick Photoshop buttons in here at a later date so that you can see the proper words. Like my guide’s name is Slawek, but the ‘l’ is actually an ‘l’ with a small line in the middle, giving it a ‘w’ sound. So his name sounds like Swah-veck. Sobibor has an accent over the ‘o’ and the ‘i’ is an ‘ee’ sound always in Polish. So Sobibor sounds like So-bee-boor, with the boor sounding like ‘boo’ like as in ghost. Belzec has a line through its ‘l’ also, and a dot over the ‘z,’ so Belzec sounds like Behw-zhets. The lone ‘c’ in Polish is a ‘ts’ sound like ‘cats.’

We continue on the few-hour drive to Sobibor, stopping along the Bug (pronouned Book, like ‘boo’) River on the way for some coffee and bread. Just across the river is Belarus, former Russia. You could easily wade across the short distance. Then we stop in Wlodawa (the ‘W’ is a ‘v’ sound, and the ‘l’ has a line through it. Vwah-dah-wah, with the stress on the dah). Of the 10,000 inhabitants of pre-War Wlodawa, 7,000 were Jewish. And most of them were sent 12km north to Sobibor. This number of Jews fluctuated as Jews were brought in from other parts of Europe for work duty. Out of 1,000 Jews from Austria, only 3 are known to have survived.

In Wlodawa, we visited the Muzeum Pojezeirza Leczynsko-Wlodawaskiego, which is contained inside an old Jewish synagogue that the Nazis used as a warehouse for victim’s belongings from Sobibor. In recent years a Dutch investor and the township have refurbished the synagogue and the inside is beautiful. There are a few ruined tombstones bearing Jewish inscription on display. The Nazis loved to torture the Jews in all possible ways. The Jews were forced to tear the centuries-old tombstones out of the earth from the Jewish cemetery, smash them up, and use the stones to pave new roads. In Wlodawa, ulica Solna (Solna street) received a good many stones in its lengthening.

The striking main area for the torah is repainted and the original wall inscriptions in the other building are still up, hundreds of years old. In the main building is a room set up as a teaching room for the young Jews of the time, complete with books, toys, desk, etc.

Then we made our way to Sobibor. Slawek and I walked across the train tracks to the old Sobibor station, now entirely dilapidated and not in use. The bench where Jan Piwonski told of seeing the Jews unloaded in ‘Shoah,’ now lays back against the fence around Sobibor station. More of the paint has come off and a chain holds the doors closed, though it did look like fresh flowers were in the window of the office. Directly across from this old station is a lumberyard, formerly inside camp boundaries, and a building used as Franz Stangl’s house before he became the commandant of Treblinka. This house had a pleasant sign hanging outside, “The Merry Flea,” almost as if it were a restaurant or bar, to further deceive arriving Jews. A family lives in the house today, with no relation to any Nazi or Ukrainian families.

Sobibor began operations at the end of April 1942, and continued until the uprising of October 14, 1943. Over 300 Jews escaped but only 50 lived through the war, most being blown apart by the land mines situated around the camp, or rounded up by SS-Men. These events are portrayed through words in Claude Lanzmann’s film of Yehuda Lerner’s testimony, “Sobibor, 14 October 1943, 4 pm,” and in the Rutger Hauer and Alan Arkin film “Escape from Sobibor.”

Slawek outlines the original plot of the camp on the train platform side, and where the original platform was. It seems that all the train tracks from during the war were replaced in later years, merely from wearing out. The original grassy ramp is still there, though paved over with cement blocks years ago for the current-day lumberworkers. We walk into the small museum run by an older Polish man, and all the exhibits are in Polish. The many displays showing Nazi camp history are in Polish, and the 3D model of the camp also explains the houses in Polish. Luckily Slawek and Radek are there for translating. They’ve added a small section to the exhibits of items found during the recent digging in 2001, including chunks of an underground well, several yards of rusty barbed wire, a barbed wire holding post, and some bricks from a barracks.

We step outside and Slawek shows me where they uncovered some of the barbed wire and posts that were slammed deep into the ground to hide them. The archeologists have been able to recreate a fairly approximate pathway through the Himmelstrasse, or Road to Heaven, as the Germans called it. Meaning the Tube to the gas chambers. This tube was about 12 feet wide, and about 500 feet long. Those selected for death, which were most of any transport, were sent from the reception area, to an undressing room, and were beaten down the Tube towards the ‘baths.’ Men were always driven first. Women would follow, and their hair shaved in a special hut on the way to the baths.

Slawek, Radek and I walked down this path, and I was surprised how long it took. The archeologists had place wooden markers in the ground showing the approximate edges of the Tube. At one point Slawek showed me something interesting. As the Nazis were fond of planting trees over their camps once they had annihilated the surrounding area of Jews, there are trees all over Sobibor. Every tree in the area is roughly 60 years old, being born after the camp had been abandoned. As we can now see through the work of the present-day diggers, the Nazis weren’t always so careful to eliminate all traces. We guessed that the departing Germans just got tired. Along one segment of the Tube, some of the barbed wire that was forced in the ground to ‘hide’ it found itself enmeshed in the growth of two of the trees, and through the years has grown in-between the trees, embedded in the middle of the trunks of the two. Pretty cool to see this bit. Regardless if the diggers had uncovered a mass grave and bones were strewn all over as the much drooled-after proof the revisionists so taunt historians with, seeing this little bit of history growing, this short bit of barbed wire pulled from the earth by the growth of the trees is kinda wild.

We got to the end of the path, and the approximate spot where the gas chambers were located. A few feet off from where the end of the Tube is located, but not far off. A simple though effective memorial of a large square chimney, and a large sculpture of a women with her child occupy the approximage spot of the gas chambers. Further down this path is a very large circular open-air urn of sorts, containing a pile of ashes mixed with dirt, pulled from the area of a mass burning pyre. The pile is covered with rocks which is why the whole thing doesn’t just blow away. Slawek pointed out an area near this monument that was clear of trees. This area was found to be full of mass graves by the diggers. He noted that the trees refused to grow over the mass graves at the camps. The scientists today are unsure why, maybe due to the gasses used, or some other anomaly, as it was believed that human ash made good fertilizer.

Already 5 hours into our day, we strolled back out of Sobibor and packed up for the several-hour trek to Belzec, my last stop on my tour of the three camps of Odilo Globocnik, Christian Wirth, Franz Stangl, and Aktion Reinhard.

9/19/02

Sobibor

7 a.m. Slawek and Radek come by the Hotel Europa to pick me up, and give me a few minutes to enjoy breakfast downstairs. I love food in Poland. I love food in Europe. They eat REAL food in Europe. It grows out of the ground. It has flavor. REAL food.

We have a quick stop at a college building in Lublin, near the hotel. This was where Operation Reinhard’s main offices were located, overseen by Odilo Globocnik.

I really wish that your computer could read Polish characters because I’m typing words that can’t be properly read. Maybe I’ll stick Photoshop buttons in here at a later date so that you can see the proper words. Like my guide’s name is Slawek, but the ‘l’ is actually an ‘l’ with a small line in the middle, giving it a ‘w’ sound. So his name sounds like Swah-veck. Sobibor has an accent over the ‘o’ and the ‘i’ is an ‘ee’ sound always in Polish. So Sobibor sounds like So-bee-boor, with the boor sounding like ‘boo’ like as in ghost. Belzec has a line through its ‘l’ also, and a dot over the ‘z,’ so Belzec sounds like Behw-zhets. The lone ‘c’ in Polish is a ‘ts’ sound like ‘cats.’

We continue on the few-hour drive to Sobibor, stopping along the Bug (pronouned Book, like ‘boo’) River on the way for some coffee and bread. Just across the river is Belarus, former Russia. You could easily wade across the short distance. Then we stop in Wlodawa (the ‘W’ is a ‘v’ sound, and the ‘l’ has a line through it. Vwah-dah-wah, with the stress on the dah). Of the 10,000 inhabitants of pre-War Wlodawa, 7,000 were Jewish. And most of them were sent 12km north to Sobibor. This number of Jews fluctuated as Jews were brought in from other parts of Europe for work duty. Out of 1,000 Jews from Austria, only 3 are known to have survived.

In Wlodawa, we visited the Muzeum Pojezeirza Leczynsko-Wlodawaskiego, which is contained inside an old Jewish synagogue that the Nazis used as a warehouse for victim’s belongings from Sobibor. In recent years a Dutch investor and the township have refurbished the synagogue and the inside is beautiful. There are a few ruined tombstones bearing Jewish inscription on display. The Nazis loved to torture the Jews in all possible ways. The Jews were forced to tear the centuries-old tombstones out of the earth from the Jewish cemetery, smash them up, and use the stones to pave new roads. In Wlodawa, ulica Solna (Solna street) received a good many stones in its lengthening.

The striking main area for the torah is repainted and the original wall inscriptions in the other building are still up, hundreds of years old. In the main building is a room set up as a teaching room for the young Jews of the time, complete with books, toys, desk, etc.

Then we made our way to Sobibor. Slawek and I walked across the train tracks to the old Sobibor station, now entirely dilapidated and not in use. The bench where Jan Piwonski told of seeing the Jews unloaded in ‘Shoah,’ now lays back against the fence around Sobibor station. More of the paint has come off and a chain holds the doors closed, though it did look like fresh flowers were in the window of the office. Directly across from this old station is a lumberyard, formerly inside camp boundaries, and a building used as Franz Stangl’s house before he became the commandant of Treblinka. This house had a pleasant sign hanging outside, “The Merry Flea,” almost as if it were a restaurant or bar, to further deceive arriving Jews. A family lives in the house today, with no relation to any Nazi or Ukrainian families.

Sobibor began operations at the end of April 1942, and continued until the uprising of October 14, 1943. Over 300 Jews escaped but only 50 lived through the war, most being blown apart by the land mines situated around the camp, or rounded up by SS-Men. These events are portrayed through words in Claude Lanzmann’s film of Yehuda Lerner’s testimony, “Sobibor, 14 October 1943, 4 pm,” and in the Rutger Hauer and Alan Arkin film “Escape from Sobibor.”

Slawek outlines the original plot of the camp on the train platform side, and where the original platform was. It seems that all the train tracks from during the war were replaced in later years, merely from wearing out. The original grassy ramp is still there, though paved over with cement blocks years ago for the current-day lumberworkers. We walk into the small museum run by an older Polish man, and all the exhibits are in Polish. The many displays showing Nazi camp history are in Polish, and the 3D model of the camp also explains the houses in Polish. Luckily Slawek and Radek are there for translating. They’ve added a small section to the exhibits of items found during the recent digging in 2001, including chunks of an underground well, several yards of rusty barbed wire, a barbed wire holding post, and some bricks from a barracks.

We step outside and Slawek shows me where they uncovered some of the barbed wire and posts that were slammed deep into the ground to hide them. The archeologists have been able to recreate a fairly approximate pathway through the Himmelstrasse, or Road to Heaven, as the Germans called it. Meaning the Tube to the gas chambers. This tube was about 12 feet wide, and about 500 feet long. Those selected for death, which were most of any transport, were sent from the reception area, to an undressing room, and were beaten down the Tube towards the ‘baths.’ Men were always driven first. Women would follow, and their hair shaved in a special hut on the way to the baths.

Slawek, Radek and I walked down this path, and I was surprised how long it took. The archeologists had place wooden markers in the ground showing the approximate edges of the Tube. At one point Slawek showed me something interesting. As the Nazis were fond of planting trees over their camps once they had annihilated the surrounding area of Jews, there are trees all over Sobibor. Every tree in the area is roughly 60 years old, being born after the camp had been abandoned. As we can now see through the work of the present-day diggers, the Nazis weren’t always so careful to eliminate all traces. We guessed that the departing Germans just got tired. Along one segment of the Tube, some of the barbed wire that was forced in the ground to ‘hide’ it found itself enmeshed in the growth of two of the trees, and through the years has grown in-between the trees, embedded in the middle of the trunks of the two. Pretty cool to see this bit. Regardless if the diggers had uncovered a mass grave and bones were strewn all over as the much drooled-after proof the revisionists so taunt historians with, seeing this little bit of history growing, this short bit of barbed wire pulled from the earth by the growth of the trees is kinda wild.

We got to the end of the path, and the approximate spot where the gas chambers were located. A few feet off from where the end of the Tube is located, but not far off. A simple though effective memorial of a large square chimney, and a large sculpture of a women with her child occupy the approximage spot of the gas chambers. Further down this path is a very large circular open-air urn of sorts, containing a pile of ashes mixed with dirt, pulled from the area of a mass burning pyre. The pile is covered with rocks which is why the whole thing doesn’t just blow away. Slawek pointed out an area near this monument that was clear of trees. This area was found to be full of mass graves by the diggers. He noted that the trees refused to grow over the mass graves at the camps. The scientists today are unsure why, maybe due to the gasses used, or some other anomaly, as it was believed that human ash made good fertilizer.

Already 5 hours into our day, we strolled back out of Sobibor and packed up for the several-hour trek to Belzec, my last stop on my tour of the three camps of Odilo Globocnik, Christian Wirth, Franz Stangl, and Aktion Reinhard.

Here are pics of John and I at Henry White and Doug Langway’s October 3rd release party for the DVD of their film ‘Raising Heroes.’ I hate it when they do those candid shots though. I’m looking like I’m trying to be French and explain something deep or something, when I’m probably just sneezing or have vodka up my nose. Actually Raising Heroes’ assistant director Rob looks like he’s being a whole lot more French than I am in this pic, so I guess it’s okay.

Here are pics of John and I at Henry White and Doug Langway’s October 3rd release party for the DVD of their film ‘Raising Heroes.’ I hate it when they do those candid shots though. I’m looking like I’m trying to be French and explain something deep or something, when I’m probably just sneezing or have vodka up my nose. Actually Raising Heroes’ assistant director Rob looks like he’s being a whole lot more French than I am in this pic, so I guess it’s okay.

October 3, 2002

I meant to post here during my trip throughout Poland and to Paris, but I became quite overwhelmed with the whole experience, so the stories will come out in bits throughout the days. I’m still tired, readjusting to the US schedule.

Went to the Clive Barker signing last night at Barnes & Noble. He sure is a swell guy. His husband David and this icky publicist guy in a suit that looks like he has to pay to have sex hovered over the table. I’m surprised at Clive’s memory because he remembers more of our quick meetings in the past than I do! Nice guy.

Tonight we’re going to a DVD release party for our friend Doug Langway’s Raising Heroes, a pretty cool ultra-low-budget movie starring his lover Henry White. Gay guys with guns, a fun concept.

I’ve been scanning the slides from the trip and will post some of those too. The whole thing was really smart and great to do. I’m really into the travelling thing now. I actually want to return to each of the places I went to in Poland, so I think next time a full two weeks there is needed. Even though I also want to go to Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade, etc. etc.

October 3, 2002

I meant to post here during my trip throughout Poland and to Paris, but I became quite overwhelmed with the whole experience, so the stories will come out in bits throughout the days. I’m still tired, readjusting to the US schedule.

Went to the Clive Barker signing last night at Barnes & Noble. He sure is a swell guy. His husband David and this icky publicist guy in a suit that looks like he has to pay to have sex hovered over the table. I’m surprised at Clive’s memory because he remembers more of our quick meetings in the past than I do! Nice guy.

Tonight we’re going to a DVD release party for our friend Doug Langway’s Raising Heroes, a pretty cool ultra-low-budget movie starring his lover Henry White. Gay guys with guns, a fun concept.

I’ve been scanning the slides from the trip and will post some of those too. The whole thing was really smart and great to do. I’m really into the travelling thing now. I actually want to return to each of the places I went to in Poland, so I think next time a full two weeks there is needed. Even though I also want to go to Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade, etc. etc.

Slightly rewritten version of the article that appeared at Film Threat October, 2001, is now published at advocate.com. There’s also a link to shaderupe.com there, which is cool. I’ve received a couple of nice emails from Advocate readers. It’s great to see the article in such a high-profile place, and it’s nice to share.

I’m so excited!!! I leave for Warsaw on Friday the 13th!!! I’ll be staying with my good friend Jacek Wyrzykowski and his partner Krzysztof for a few days, before heading to Chelmno, Lodz and Treblinka as day trips, then going down to Lublin to visit Majdanek, Sobibor and Belzec, then on to Krakow where I hope to see Krzysztof Penderecki at his home, and I will definitely be in Oswiecim, more well known as Auschwitz. On the 24th I fly to Paris and plan on seeing several friends there also, and on Saturday the 28th, WHITEHOUSE LIVE!!!!

Today, I’m going to see Shoah Part 1 at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space. I guess I kinda sorta should be packing and arranging things for the trip, but seeing Shoah in a theatre, especially before leaving before my Poland trip, seems apt.

Slightly rewritten version of the article that appeared at Film Threat October, 2001, is now published at advocate.com. There’s also a link to shaderupe.com there, which is cool. I’ve received a couple of nice emails from Advocate readers. It’s great to see the article in such a high-profile place, and it’s nice to share.

I’m so excited!!! I leave for Warsaw on Friday the 13th!!! I’ll be staying with my good friend Jacek Wyrzykowski and his partner Krzysztof for a few days, before heading to Chelmno, Lodz and Treblinka as day trips, then going down to Lublin to visit Majdanek, Sobibor and Belzec, then on to Krakow where I hope to see Krzysztof Penderecki at his home, and I will definitely be in Oswiecim, more well known as Auschwitz. On the 24th I fly to Paris and plan on seeing several friends there also, and on Saturday the 28th, WHITEHOUSE LIVE!!!!

Today, I’m going to see Shoah Part 1 at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space. I guess I kinda sorta should be packing and arranging things for the trip, but seeing Shoah in a theatre, especially before leaving before my Poland trip, seems apt.

August 22–25, 2002 — Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD

Happy Birthday to Me!

John and I had a great last weekend in Washington, D.C. We first headed down on Amtrak for a Thursday night rendezvous with long-time art bear friend Jim Adams and his partner of just about 10 years Joseph Dress. A delightful fun-filled couple they kept their eyes propped open after a busy week and toured us around a few of D.C.’s monuments. We got out of the car at the Vietnam Memorial to walk along its ground-lit pathway. Very cool with scaled walls sloping towards a tall center and receding again as you go up the path. The walls of this memorial are cut into the earth and at the highest point hold back a 10-foot wall of earth. Each panel is chiseled with names of men who have been confirmed as perished in the war. I didn’t know that the Vietnam War began in 1959! This was a great walk at night. Spooky ground-lit pathway, a few lights in the distance, and quiet.

We then walked on to the Lincoln Memorial and ascended the steps to the giant sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. One wall is chiseled with the Gettysburg Address (which I had never read before) and I forget what was on the other, and there’s color murals at the top of each wall. Lincoln looks pretty cool up close. Some TV show about DC was shooting out front.

It was funny about DC because I had seen all this stuff in movies before, and never really had much interest in it, but once it was right in front of me I felt like checking it out. It’s sort of like seeing an actor on TV and then seeing that person on the street and even if you’re not really into that actor it’s exciting to see them. Kinda.

The next day we woke up early and took the train to the Holocaust Museum, which I had been reading about for awhile. The entrance was pretty wild, with elevators that sort of seem like gas chamber doors closing. Each visitor is asked to pick up an ‘I.D. Card’ which has a photo and life description of someone who lived during the Nazi regime. My guy lived.

When you exit on the 4th floor for the permanent Holocaust exhibit, a large photo of American soldiers surveying a pile of corpses and wood in a pit at the Ohrdruf concentration camp is the big splash entrance. To the left are a few gray and black striped prisoners outfits in a triangular class case, and then it begins with the Nazi rise to power, including some images in color I hadn’t seen.

The Holocaust in color really brings it right up to the present. In black and white, it seems long ago, far away. In color, it seems like today and helps with the realization that Poland wasn’t a bunch of people living in the fields harvesting, that the Jews weren’t all chassidim, etc. Europe was a fairly modern world and Warsaw was a major hub. Incredible stuff. The beginning of the self-guided tour is a little claustrophobic, shoving everybody down a narrow glassed-in hallway, but I think that’s the point.

We spent six hours here total. And it wasn’t enough time. I had made it to the Partisans exhibit on the 2nd floor and was excited to read about the Death Marches when they shut off all the sets and kicked us out. I also couldn’t make it to the Hall of Remembrance with all the candles and the names of the six death camps. I really wanted to light a candle there on my birthday. And Leni Reifenstahl turned 100 the day before I turned 34!

I’m looking forward to going back. I read every little placard, spent a few moments on almost every image on the way down through the exhibit. There are some changes I would make if I were involved in this exhibit, but overall it’s pretty classy. Although there are a few things visitors are allowed to believe, like the train car that you walk through was an actual car used to transport “pieces” (the Nazi word for Jewish human being), when it’s really just an authentic rail car, and wasn’t used for transporting Jews (although I couldn’t really get the real story behind this car. I just didn’t notice any numbers painted on it which the Nazis did for a few reasons).

My favorite exhibit was the sculpture by Mieczyslaw Stobierski, a scale model of Krema II (Crematorium II) at Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II). This is actually a recreation of the one at the State Museum of Auschwitz, and this original was seen in Claude Lanzmann’s film “Shoah.”

A pretty cool museum with a couple things I could see being made a bit more important, but the people walking through were pretty quiet and there were a few crying people so people get out of it what they do. And I was able to spend six full hours and still had about 20% more to see in the permanent exhibition alone so it’s a pretty dense collection.

On Saturday we trained via Acela (which is better if you want to spend a few extra bucks) to Baltimore for the Horrorfind.com Weekend, in time to catch Douglas Clegg reading from his autobiographical horror novel “The Hour Before Dark” which is due out sometime in September. Doug’s readings and speakings are always great. He’s got a great voice and his humor spikes up during his readings and talks carrying them well above just reading the stuff at home. We couldn’t check in to our room until 3pm and we were pretty bushed so we choked down some amazingly gross hotel food, wandered through the dealers room, caught the Gerard Houarner and Tom Piccirilli reading and finally crashed for a little bit.

One of the cool things about Brian Keene’s Horrorfind.com Weekend convention is the amount of ultra-die-hard horror fans that show up. The costumes were really incredible. The main winner of the whole contest was this big scarecrow guy, complete with broken scarecrow cross and crow on his back. He had stilts and moved really fast. Amazing. And much to the ‘horror’ of the horror fans one man dressed up as Adolf Hitler, missing only the swastika on the armband, leaving it white instead. The guy obviously had some oddness in his brain and we shot a quick pic together. He won for Best Period Costume, but there was a noticeable silence when he walked up. He MUST know that people would freak out this, in a way that even Osama bin Ladin doesn’t cause gasps. Bruce Campbell (the actor serving as one of the judges) asked him why he was dressed like that and the guy replied, “I am the greatest monster of all!”

So we had tons of fun and hit the parties at night but were just too tired and crashed, and sadly learned that there was absinthe about which was broken out moments after we crashed. C’est la vie. We had a nice time at Rod Gudino of Rue Morgue’s party and it was really a great time overall. I love seeing all these people and found a new fan too! This one guy, George, just gushed all over me in his praise for Funeral Party, which is just swell to hear. He said he had also visited the Holocaust Museum but he was on acid at the time so he had a little bit of a different experience than we did.

A fairly uneventful trip back on the train except for the unfortunance of sitting across from a horrible couple who just bitched at each other the entire 3-hour journey back. The guy was just fucking gross and looked like a lawyer or something, and his lil’ blondie wife kept trying to read her romance novel. Yuck. John and I finally started talking loudly about them, hoping they would shut the fuck up, but his needing to shit on his wife took precedence and no matter what nasty comments John and I came up with, his relentless cruelty towards his wife would not cease.

Well, we had more fun than them anyway, and I had a great birthday!

August 22–25, 2002 — Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD

Happy Birthday to Me!

John and I had a great last weekend in Washington, D.C. We first headed down on Amtrak for a Thursday night rendezvous with long-time art bear friend Jim Adams and his partner of just about 10 years Joseph Dress. A delightful fun-filled couple they kept their eyes propped open after a busy week and toured us around a few of D.C.’s monuments. We got out of the car at the Vietnam Memorial to walk along its ground-lit pathway. Very cool with scaled walls sloping towards a tall center and receding again as you go up the path. The walls of this memorial are cut into the earth and at the highest point hold back a 10-foot wall of earth. Each panel is chiseled with names of men who have been confirmed as perished in the war. I didn’t know that the Vietnam War began in 1959! This was a great walk at night. Spooky ground-lit pathway, a few lights in the distance, and quiet.

We then walked on to the Lincoln Memorial and ascended the steps to the giant sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. One wall is chiseled with the Gettysburg Address (which I had never read before) and I forget what was on the other, and there’s color murals at the top of each wall. Lincoln looks pretty cool up close. Some TV show about DC was shooting out front.

It was funny about DC because I had seen all this stuff in movies before, and never really had much interest in it, but once it was right in front of me I felt like checking it out. It’s sort of like seeing an actor on TV and then seeing that person on the street and even if you’re not really into that actor it’s exciting to see them. Kinda.

The next day we woke up early and took the train to the Holocaust Museum, which I had been reading about for awhile. The entrance was pretty wild, with elevators that sort of seem like gas chamber doors closing. Each visitor is asked to pick up an ‘I.D. Card’ which has a photo and life description of someone who lived during the Nazi regime. My guy lived.

When you exit on the 4th floor for the permanent Holocaust exhibit, a large photo of American soldiers surveying a pile of corpses and wood in a pit at the Ohrdruf concentration camp is the big splash entrance. To the left are a few gray and black striped prisoners outfits in a triangular class case, and then it begins with the Nazi rise to power, including some images in color I hadn’t seen.

The Holocaust in color really brings it right up to the present. In black and white, it seems long ago, far away. In color, it seems like today and helps with the realization that Poland wasn’t a bunch of people living in the fields harvesting, that the Jews weren’t all chassidim, etc. Europe was a fairly modern world and Warsaw was a major hub. Incredible stuff. The beginning of the self-guided tour is a little claustrophobic, shoving everybody down a narrow glassed-in hallway, but I think that’s the point.

We spent six hours here total. And it wasn’t enough time. I had made it to the Partisans exhibit on the 2nd floor and was excited to read about the Death Marches when they shut off all the sets and kicked us out. I also couldn’t make it to the Hall of Remembrance with all the candles and the names of the six death camps. I really wanted to light a candle there on my birthday. And Leni Reifenstahl turned 100 the day before I turned 34!

I’m looking forward to going back. I read every little placard, spent a few moments on almost every image on the way down through the exhibit. There are some changes I would make if I were involved in this exhibit, but overall it’s pretty classy. Although there are a few things visitors are allowed to believe, like the train car that you walk through was an actual car used to transport “pieces” (the Nazi word for Jewish human being), when it’s really just an authentic rail car, and wasn’t used for transporting Jews (although I couldn’t really get the real story behind this car. I just didn’t notice any numbers painted on it which the Nazis did for a few reasons).

My favorite exhibit was the sculpture by Mieczyslaw Stobierski, a scale model of Krema II (Crematorium II) at Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II). This is actually a recreation of the one at the State Museum of Auschwitz, and this original was seen in Claude Lanzmann’s film “Shoah.”

A pretty cool museum with a couple things I could see being made a bit more important, but the people walking through were pretty quiet and there were a few crying people so people get out of it what they do. And I was able to spend six full hours and still had about 20% more to see in the permanent exhibition alone so it’s a pretty dense collection.

On Saturday we trained via Acela (which is better if you want to spend a few extra bucks) to Baltimore for the Horrorfind.com Weekend, in time to catch Douglas Clegg reading from his autobiographical horror novel “The Hour Before Dark” which is due out sometime in September. Doug’s readings and speakings are always great. He’s got a great voice and his humor spikes up during his readings and talks carrying them well above just reading the stuff at home. We couldn’t check in to our room until 3pm and we were pretty bushed so we choked down some amazingly gross hotel food, wandered through the dealers room, caught the Gerard Houarner and Tom Piccirilli reading and finally crashed for a little bit.

One of the cool things about Brian Keene’s Horrorfind.com Weekend convention is the amount of ultra-die-hard horror fans that show up. The costumes were really incredible. The main winner of the whole contest was this big scarecrow guy, complete with broken scarecrow cross and crow on his back. He had stilts and moved really fast. Amazing. And much to the ‘horror’ of the horror fans one man dressed up as Adolf Hitler, missing only the swastika on the armband, leaving it white instead. The guy obviously had some oddness in his brain and we shot a quick pic together. He won for Best Period Costume, but there was a noticeable silence when he walked up. He MUST know that people would freak out this, in a way that even Osama bin Ladin doesn’t cause gasps. Bruce Campbell (the actor serving as one of the judges) asked him why he was dressed like that and the guy replied, “I am the greatest monster of all!”

So we had tons of fun and hit the parties at night but were just too tired and crashed, and sadly learned that there was absinthe about which was broken out moments after we crashed. C’est la vie. We had a nice time at Rod Gudino of Rue Morgue’s party and it was really a great time overall. I love seeing all these people and found a new fan too! This one guy, George, just gushed all over me in his praise for Funeral Party, which is just swell to hear. He said he had also visited the Holocaust Museum but he was on acid at the time so he had a little bit of a different experience than we did.

A fairly uneventful trip back on the train except for the unfortunance of sitting across from a horrible couple who just bitched at each other the entire 3-hour journey back. The guy was just fucking gross and looked like a lawyer or something, and his lil’ blondie wife kept trying to read her romance novel. Yuck. John and I finally started talking loudly about them, hoping they would shut the fuck up, but his needing to shit on his wife took precedence and no matter what nasty comments John and I came up with, his relentless cruelty towards his wife would not cease.

Well, we had more fun than them anyway, and I had a great birthday!