Summer 1984. I’m in Poland with Dad as Living Sound toured the country performing in cathedrals. Looking back on this summer, and this trip in particular, it is probably the most formative on my life. Seeing communism up close. Dodging the KGB. Watching young people risk their lives to share the Gospel. It was all so powerful. Yet, there was something even more impactful to me from that summer that I want to share.
We were in the city of Katowice and, one morning, Dad spontaneously decided to take me on a road trip. “Let’s get crackin’!” he says as I jump in the front seat of the small sedan. We are near the city center and we head south, into the country, along the A4.
When we arrive at our destination, I had no idea what I was looking at. There were people walking around the grounds but, with the high fences and razor wire, the place had a creepy and ominous feel to it. We were at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site of the WW2 concentration camp, which Pope John Paul II once described as the “Golgotha of our times”.
We walked the grounds and Dad explained to me the purpose of this camp. I couldn’t wrap my young mind around the inhumane brutality of what took place there less than 40 years earlier.
We went in to what I believe was the gas chamber. I thought I saw a human hair sticking out from the wall. We both stood speechless for what seemed like ten minutes, shocked at the horrors that were once carried out in that very room. Then, Dad looked me in the eye and said, “There can be no Switzerland here.”