2017 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat

I came quite “not knowing” and plunged into one the most meaningful experiences in my life. I felt cared for, safe and guided through this week with enough flexibility to find my own pace. I am deeply thankful for all these moments of deep humanity. ” – 2016 Retreat Participant



*for ZPO Members who have donated annually over $180 dollars.


**Returners are those who have attended the retreat at least once before.

Scholarships & Group fares available upon request. All retreat fees go to cover the retreat’s costs and Zen Peacemakers, Inc. (non-profit 501(c)3) operations. See tab ‘What Your Fee Includes’ for details.


The Zen Peacemakers are returning for the 22nd year to the old site of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim, Poland, for a Bearing Witness Retreat. Bernie Glassman began the annual Bearing Witness Retreats in 1996, with help from Eve Marko and Andrzej Krajewski. They have taken place annually every year since then. Much has been written about these annual retreats; at least half a dozen films have been made about them in various languages. They are multi-faith and multinational in character, with a strong focus on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Taking Action.

We will spend most of each day is spent sitting by the train tracks at Birkenau, both in silence and in chanting the names of the dead. We will walk through the vast camps, performs vigils and memorial services inside the women’s, men’s and children’s barracks. Participants meet daily in small Council groups designed to create a safe place for people to share their inner experiences. The whole group meets in the evenings for various programs to continue bear witness to oneness in diversity.


AschePerlen150Read on our Blog reflections and testimonials from previous retreats OR

Read the impressions of more than seventy retreat participants of the past twenty years in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe” (English & German language) at https://www.janando.de/steinrich/en


  1. Paypal – Click ‘Add to Cart’ at the button at the top of the page and follow the instructions.
  2. US/Canada Check or Money Order – Send to: Zen Peacemakers ATTN:AUS POBOX 294 Montague MA 01351 – make check to Zen Peacemakers, Inc.
  3. Bank Wire Transfer – Please inquire at [email protected] for bank information
  4. Credit Card by Phone – Call phone number +(49)-176-281-88590 and give your credit card information.


Participants attend registration check-in evening on Sunday November 5th in Krakow, leave Krakow Monday morning November 6 to Oświęcim and return to Krakow on Saturday morning November 11, 2017. Your retreat tuition covers all lodging, food and travel from the beginning of the retreat itself on Monday November 6th – lodging/food for the night of November 5th is not provided. Please arrive to Krakow for the Sunday 11/5 registration check-in and make travel arrangements to leave from Krakow no sooner than 12pm on November 11th. You are encouraged to arrive a few days before to adjust after your travel, explore beautiful Krakow and to leave at least a day later to allow integration of your retreat experience before returning home.

You are encourage to make travel arrangements after and not sooner than May 1st 2017, to comply with any unlikely changes in this schedule.



Retreat Elders are​ individuals who have co-founded or served as spirit holders on this retreat in the past​, and are present both as support and guidance to the retreat spirit holders and to its participants.​They link this retreat with two decades of ​returning to the site of Auschwitz. This year, retreat Elders in attendance are Roshi Bernie Glassman, Roshi Eve Marko and Roshi Andrzej Krajewski; all three co-founders of this retreat.

When you participate in a Bearing Witness retreat, you enter a carefully crafted container held by various teams:

Retreat Spirit Holders serve, listen and learn ‘the pulse’ of the retreat, adjust the schedule, and keep the intention of the retreat encored in the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers and Auschwitz as the one teacher of the retreat. This year, the retreat spirit holders are Roshi Barbara Wegmüller, Roshi Cornelius V. Collande and Roshi Genro Gauntt.

Retreat Staff serves the needs of the retreat and you, the participants. This year, the retreat staff will include Rami Efal as the retreat manager, Jared Seideas as the Council Trainer, Sensei Roland Wegmüller as the retreat doctor, Reb Shir Yaakov as the retreat Jewish clergy, as well as a team of international support staff.

Retreat Council Facilitators lead the daily morning council circles, in which we listen to each-other’s experience of the retreat.

Dialogue Center Staff maintains our lodging facilities, prepares and serves our hearty and healthy meals.


Your fee finances the administrative and logistical costs of the retreat such as transportation, lodging, food, tour guides, and travel of staff, as well as towards the year-long administration of the retreat by ZP staff. It contributes to honorariums and travel costs needed to bring select guests, scholarships for local participants, those of diverse backgrounds and those with limited means.

For Travel Purposes:

TRANSPORTATION: Your Fee includes all transportation starting Monday 11/6/17 8:00 am (beginning of retreat from Krakow) and ending on Saturday 11/11/2017 with transportation from retreat center to Krakow airport, train station and main square).

LODGING: Your fee includes meals and board starting lunch on Monday 11/6/17 and ending with breakfast on Saturday 11/11/2017. Your room at the Dialogue Center in Oświęcim, where we will stay during the retreat, is fully included in your fee. single

Your fee does not include travel to Krakow or lodging in Krakow before (11/6) or after the retreat (11/11).


 If the retreat is canceled by Zen Peacemakers, inc., registrants will receive full refunds of the paid registration fees.

If a registration is canceled by the participant by October 7, 2017, more than one month (31 days) prior to the retreat start date, ZP will refund all but $100 of the paid fees – a cancelation fee to cover administration expenses.

If a registration is canceled by the participant by October 22, 2017, 15-30 days before the start date of the workshop, ZP will refund all but $300 of the paid fees – a cancelation fee to cover administration expenses.

Fees are non refundable if a registration is cancelled by the participant after October 23rd 2017, within two weeks (14 days) of the start date of the retreat.

All refunds will be processed within 60 days of notification of cancellation.

If you roll-over your tuition from one year to the next, a refund will not be given if you decide not to attend the following year.



Join an introductory one-day workshop exploring the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. This experiential workshop will introduce participants to the principles on which the Bearing Witness retreat is based. It is a unique opportunity to explore and practice with two international teachers.

Date & Time: Saturday November 4th 2017, 9am-5pm

About the Instructors: Roshi Barbara Wegmüller (Switzerland) and Roshi Genro Gauntt (USA) are Zen teachers, successors of Bernie Glassman and longtime co-leaders in the Bearing Witness retreats in Auschwitz, Rwanda, Black Hills and Bosnia-Herzegovina retreats. More about Barbara. More about Genro.

Dana to Instructors: the instructors have volunteered to lead this workshop, and their travel is covered by the workshop and retreat fees of participants. It is customary to offer dana, giving, to the instructors after the workshop, in accordance with how meaningful and useful you found this retreat. Thank you for your generosity.



11/3 Friday 10-4pm, Royal Hotel, Krakow, Poland

“Council is an age-old practice that involves bringing people together into a type of talking circle for candid and heartfelt conversations. Participants speak one-at-a-time, sharing their personal stories and experiences, rather than opinions, and listen intently while others do the same. Sharing and listening to universal stories about love, loss, fear, and hope enables participants to recognize that, despite their many differences, they have much in common.” — from Center for Council website

During the Bearing Witness retreat we will practice council each morning with our fellow participants. Join Jared Seide, executive director of Center for Council, to develop a wider grounding in the practice which will benefit your experience of the retreat, and alternatively, be carried deeper into your life. During the retreat the basics of the practice will be explained to all, and in this one-day pre-retreat workshop you will have a chance to train intimately in a nuanced way with this professional trainer.

Jared has been the Council trainer in Auschwitz, Black Hills, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreats, and has developed council-based programs in service of incarcerated people in the US, in conflict zone such as Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina and many more.

Dana: Your retreat and workshop fees allow us to bring Jared to this event and offer this unique training. If you found this workshop valuable, please practice the age-old custom of dana, generosity, to him in monetary or any other form.

Note: Center for Council conducts a series of formal council training. This introduction does not qualify as level 1 training.


Zen Peacemakers encourages everyone to fundraise their participation by reaching out to close ones and friends and by that to include others in what otherwise may be a very personal journey. You will also raise awareness to whatever causes or issues attending this retreat will address for you.

2,500 years ago, it was the practice of the lay congregation to support monks through donations of food and clothing. Shakyamuni Buddha led his monks each morning in the practice of begging for their daily food. Each day’s offering was received with thanks regardless of its nature or size. In this way the Buddha encouraged simplicity, the generosity of both giving and receiving, and undiscriminating appreciation.

We continue this begging practice by raising support for our work by assembling a mala, or beads that are strung together and worn like a necklace. Each bead represents a person who supports that member’s vision and work, and the entire mala represents the Member’s community of support.

This is a practice of giving and receiving. By asking for support from family, friends, and associates, we acknowledge that as individuals, we are limited in what we can do. We depend on the generosity of others to increase our membership, train more peacemacandlekers, and develop and support more programs. This is one more way in which we bear witness in the interdependence of life.

Another important aspect of mala practice is the incorporation of the ministry of money in our program. The assembly of malas insures that money management and fundraising are not seen as foreign to peacemaking work; instead, the give-and-take of money is the compassionate, unobstructed flow of energy that nourishes and transforms our activities.

Mala practice also gives us the opportunity to share our work with our families, friends, and associates. Most of us lead professional work lives and have families. By raising money for our Socially Engaged Buddhist work, we publicize its activities, and most important, our own commitment. By wearing the beads we have assembled, we take our supporters with us in our peacemaking endeavors and on Bearing Witness retreats such as Auschwitz, thus making family and friends an intimate part of this peacemaking journey.

Assemble a mala (not from your personal funds) consisting of 18 small beads and one Buddha (large) bead or one of 108 beads and dedicate each bead to each of your donors. Beads from individuals or from groups or families are equally appreciated. When they offer a bead, they will be working, training, studying and traveling with you wherever you go.




Celebration of diversity has been a hallmark of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreats and in particular in Auschwitz-Birkenau, once a symbol of extreme intolerance towards others. Through the years the Zen Peacemakers hosted there countless nationalities, faith and ethnicities. Donations towards this fund will be extended towards those from diverse backgrounds to contirbute to the multifaceted experience of the retreat. Donation towards this fund will also ensure the attendance of those challenged financially to gather the cost of tuition.

Scholarships are available to individuals on a personal basis, are reviewed by ZP Staff and usually become available 60 days before the retreat.

Donation can be done online with Paypal or credit card at the link below, US checks can be sent to: Zen Peacemakers ATTN: Auschwitz Diversity Fundraiser 2016 POBOX 294 Montague MA.

Zen Peacemakers, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization for your tax purposes.


During the retreat, there will opportunity to offer personal memorial candles for loved ones.

A minimum donation per candle is $18. IF you are not attending the retreat, retreat staff will offer the candles in your and your loved one’s name.

Please add your name and the person’s name in the comment field of your purchase, or email to [email protected]

1 Memorial Candle $18

Please make a donation here.

'Why did I keep going back to Auschwitz Birkenau - Bernie'


I have gone almost every year. People wonder why I go back there. They weren’t surprised the first time I traveled to Poland, in 1994, to visit the biggest of the death camps. I’ve been a Zen Buddhist priest and a teacher of Zen for many years, and I’m also a Jew from Brooklyn whose mother originally came from Poland. In November 2015, the Zen Peacemakers conducted its 21st global, multi-faith Bearing Witness retreat at Auschwitz, and I was there once again.

Strictly speaking, my presence isn’t necessary at the retreat. A number of leaders and teachers from different religious traditions will be there. So why did I return? Why does a Zen teacher go back to Auschwitz-Birkenau again and again? At the Zen Peacemakers, which my former wife, Sandra Jishu Holmes, and I co-founded, we practice three Core Tenets: Penetrating the unknown by letting go of our fixed ideas; bearing witness to joy and suffering; and loving actions. At Auschwitz it is not hard to let go of fixed ideas. The place itself, with its endless gray skies overlooking miles of barbed wire and crumbling extermination compounds, is so terrifying that no matter how much we prepare for the visit, no matter how much we’ve read about it or pondered, it overwhelms us. Even if, like me, you’ve seen the exhibits more than once and have even walked several times down the endless railroad tracks that once brought so many to their end, there’s one thing you can still count on: Your expectations, your preconceptions, your most basic belief systems concerning love and hate, good and evil, will be annihilated in the face of Auschwitz.

In fact, after seeing the endless photographs of dying camp inmates and the high piles of their belongings pillaged by the Nazis, and after visiting Birkenau and viewing the remains of that meticulous technology developed for the purpose of mass extermination and genocide, we stop thinking altogether. As writers and philosophers have already said, there’s no language for Auschwitz. I can only add, there are no thoughts, either. We are in a place of unknowing. Much of Zen practice, including many teaching techniques used by Zen masters, is aimed at bringing the Zen practitioner to this same place of unknowing, of letting go of what he or she knows. After walking through Auschwitz and Birkenau, there is an end to thought. We are numbed. All we can do is see the endless train tracks on the snow, feel the icy cold of a Polish winter on our bare hands, smell the rotting wood in the few remaining barracks, and listen to the names of the dead.

At Birkenau we don’t sit in silence, we chant names. First we sit in a large circle around the railroad tracks, at what was once the Selection Site, directly opposite the crematoriums. A shofar blows to start the meditation period, and then four different people, each sitting at a different point on the rim of the circle, begin to chant the names of those who’d died at Auschwitz. The names come from official lists compiled by the SS. They’re also provided to us by various retreat participants, obtained from memory, family and friends. All of us take turns chanting names. Elisa Sara Fein (10.3.1907-8.12.1943) Heinrich Israel Feiner (8.3.1878-2.1.1944) Markus Fejer (14.7.1925-19.6.1942) Rywa Sara Feld (5.12.1911-6.12.194)) We chant for ten minutes, and then the person sitting next to us begins. The lists include the victims’ dates of birth and death. That’s how we know that some were very old, and some were only infants. But we don’t chant the dates, only the names. Lilly Ernst (9.2.1939-17.1.1944) Hugo Fenyvesi (27.10.1875-5.5.1942) Sophie Ferko (15.3.1943-21.5.1944) We are a global group, so the names are chanted by American, Irish, Dutch, Italian, German, Swiss, Israeli, Polish, and French voices. The names themselves are also from a multitude of languages. Everyone gets their turn. Across the large circle we hear the names. Sometimes one resembles the name of a co-worker back home, or of a friend. Sometimes the chanter pauses. She’s come across a name that’s exactly like her own. For telling names is like telling stories. When we recite the name out loud, dead bones come to life, the bones of men, women, and children from all over Europe. They lived, some grew up, some married, some had children, and all died. Their names become our names, their stories, our stories. That is what happens when we bear witness.

Peter Grosz, an American living in the Czech Republic who participated in a retreat, recently wrote us (many of the people who attend send us letters, articles, and journal entries describing their experiences). Discussing the meaning of bearing witness, he wrote the following: “You can have seen what you’ve seen and never be a witness. You can see the whole world and never have witnessed anything. Only when what you see becomes significant to someone — to yourself, for instance — do you become a witness.” How does something become significant? What is this process of witnessing, or bearing witness, that is more than just seeing? When we bear witness to a situation, we become each and every aspect of that situation. When we bear witness to Auschwitz, at that moment there is no separation between us and the people who died. There is also no separation between us and the people who killed. We ourselves, as individuals, with our identities and ego structure, disappear, and we become the terrified people getting off the trains, the indifferent or brutal guards, the snarling dogs, the doctor who points right or left, the smoke and ash belching from the chimneys. When we bear witness to Auschwitz, we are nothing but all the elements of Auschwitz. It is not an act of will, it is an act of letting go. What we let go of is the concept of the person we think we are. It’s why we start from unknowing. Only then can we become all the voices of the universe — those that suffer, those that inflict suffering, and those that stand idly by. For we are all these people. We are the universe.

After five days of sitting at the Selection Site and chanting names, many could see themselves as those who had gone to the gas chambers, including those who had no direct family connection to Auschwitz. Mothers thought of themselves bringing their own children into the death chambers. Men saw their own bodies going up in smoke in the crematoria. It was harder to see oneself as a guard who’d herded people to their death. One of the retreat participants was a Vietnam veteran. He said that he could see himself as one of the guards on top of the guardposts, aiming his gun at the people below. But not many people could see themselves that way. The famous prayer about oneness, the Sh’ma Yisrael, begins with Listen: Listen, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Not only does oneness begin with listening, listening begins with oneness. And Zen Peacemaker Order’s Buddhist service begins similarly: Attention! Attention! Raising the Mind of Compassion, the Supreme Meal is offered to all the hungry spirits throughout space and time, filling the smallest particle to the largest space. Listen! Attention! Bear witness!

It can’t happen if you want to stay away from pain and suffering. It probably won’t happen if, like most people, you go to Auschwitz, look over the exhibits, and return to the buses for a quick getaway. When you come to Auschwitz, stay a while, and begin to listen to all the voices of that terrible universe — the voices that are none other than you — then something happens. During a retreat, a man of Jewish descent living in Denmark stood up one evening and spoke about forgiving those who had perpetrated cruelties at Auschwitz. A short while later I stood up and suggested: “And then what? So you forgive, and then what? Is that the end of it? Or is there something else to be done?” If I really bear witness, if I become all the voices of Auschwitz, then it is myself that I am forgiving, no one else. If I see that at every moment a part of me is raping, while another is being raped. A part of me is destroying while another part is being destroyed. A part of me goes hungry while another eats to excess. A part of me is paralyzed and a part of me takes action. Then it makes no sense to stay in the place of blame and guilt, of anger and accusation. When I begin to see that all these parts are me, I can begin to take care of the situation. When we’re bearing witness to Auschwitz, we’re doing nothing other than bearing witness to aspects of ourselves. It’s no different when we bear witness to poverty, homelessness, hunger, and disease. We see how one part of us does something, and another part of us suffers. If we get stuck in anger and in guilt, then we’re paralyzed, we can’t act. Only when we see that all these demons are nothing other than us, we can actually take action. Then we can begin to take care of the other, who is none other than our self.

In Buddhism we say that we are all constantly transmigrating from one realm to another at every minute. There is the hell realm and the realm of the gods. There is also a realm of hungry ghosts. One of our images for a hungry ghost is a painfully thin person with a tiny mouth, a long, narrow throat and an immense stomach. The hungry ghost is always hungry, but has only a tiny capacity to absorb the nourishment that he needs. I go back to Auschwitz again and again for this reason: Each time I return to that huge death camp I realize anew that I am full of hungry ghosts. I’m full of clinging, craving, unsatisfied spirits. Each part of me that is struggling, in pain, unsatisfied, angry, and unresolved, is a hungry ghost. A starving child, an abusive parent, a stricken mother leading her child into the death chamber, a brutal guard, a drug addict who kills to get his fix, they are all starving, struggling aspects of me. Me is everyone and everything, including those that look away. At the end of his long letter to me, Peter added: “Auschwitz is a Godless place only for those who see it as bereft of voice.” He stayed there for five days and found Auschwitz full of voices, all of them his own. Attention! Attention! Raising the Mind of Compassion, the Supreme Meal is offered to all the hungry spirits throughout space and time, filling the smallest particle to the largest space. All you hungry spirits in the Ten Directions, please gather here. Sharing your distress, I offer you this food, hoping it will resolve your thirsts and hungers.

Personal Reflections by Eve Marko on the Nov 2014 Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau



Thursday night was our usual night at the barracks. On this evening before Friday, the last day of the retreat, it’s customary for us to return to Birkenau in the darkness and sit in one of the barracks by candle and flashlight. Years ago some of these vigils lasted till midnight and even all the way till morning.

As we arrived at the main brick gate through which the train tracks tubed into the camp and directly to the sites of the crematoria, we went upstairs to the guard tower built above the gate. Here, looking out over their machine guns, SS guards enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of men, women, and children stumbling down from train cars that had been their prisons for days and even weeks, with no food or water, pushed and prodded by other guards with clubs and snarling dogs in the direction of the extermination sites. This has always been a chilling spot, inviting us to bear witness to guards with a panoramic view of the terror and suffering below, drinking coffee, laughing, complaining about the hard work and bad weather, gossiping, wishing the shift would end. Somewhere in that scene many of us could find ourselves, preoccupied by our own problems and our own lives, fitting with more or less ease into a system we may bemoan but won’t violate.

We then walked single-file to the barrack, where Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi invited us to look closer at perpetrators and victims. He especially invited the German participants to talk about their lives and families, their parents and grandparents who went through the war. Stories were related about depression, guilt, silence, denial, and the quiet violence that goes along with keeping secrets. I was moved to hear them. But I felt frustration as well, not with the stories but with the heavy, mechanistic view that if we can understand the past we’ll be able to change the present and future.

The Dalai Lama has said that karma is a subtle thing. In my understanding, it has dimensions that are so vast and numberless they are practically unknowable. We are given tours by well-trained guides who provide numbers, data, and facts, but can’t explain the effects of the Auschwitz genocide on the sky or the wind, on the poi dances of the Maori in New Zealand or the wild, timid manners of the alpaca in Peru. A few can point to the birth of Israel as a consequence of the Holocaust but not to global warming and the loss of half our wildlife over the last 40 years. That Thursday evening in the barrack I silently asked for a quality of bearing witness that was no longer just about perpetrators or victims, of who did what to whom, but to something much, much bigger.

How could something like Auschwitz happen? is a question that is asked not just by folks in our retreat but probably by most visitors walking down the dusty, pebbly paths between strings of barbed wire; you can almost see it in their eyes. The American president Dwight Eisenhower said that if you’re having trouble solving a problem, make it bigger. That night in the barrack I felt it was time for this retreat to go bigger. Clubs and labels—Nazis, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Israelis, Palestinians, Gays, Heteros—are as alive now as ever, exciting the same deep emotions, rivalries, and hates, but it feels too linear, too much like old history lessons. I feel we need to change the conversation concerning both the large phenomena of genocide or Shoah and the more personal conversation about the inner voices we ignore or deny. Both are not big enough. We have to ask larger questions even though we don’t know the questions; I don’t even know the words.

Instead I find myself thinking of bacteria, specifically the strains of bacteria that outwit antibiotics and pesticides. They mutate quickly, reproducing fast and changing their chemistry in the process. We humans don’t mutate quickly. If anything, I’m conscious of the slowness of my faculties, the resistance to change, the falling back to patterns, labels, and stories that cast blame or victimize, my desire for fast results that have nothing to do with the patience and sacrifice of billions of bacteria cells that die in the process of regeneration and renewal.

January 2015 will mark 70 years since the Red Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau. Historical forces are at hand, and we can ride them or ignore them. I find myself searching for new words, new stories, new formulations. I want to change my own old chemistry and uncover the energies that I believe are still bubbling in that gray place enclosed by barbed wire, powerful energies we haven’t begun to uncover. What is the Buddha’s work in this land of attachments? How do I change the chemistry of greed, anger and ignorance into healing and renewal on all levels, in all dimensions? I looked up again and again on Thursday and Friday at the gray skies over Birkenau and asked myself not what the inmates saw there 70 years ago, but what will be seen there 70 years from now. Will any of this still exist? More important, will anyone care? Or will things have happened that will dwarf the camps at Oswiecim?

For this reason I was deeply moved to see so many peacemakers gather in this place, the same place where, over a period of almost 20 years, many of us met each other for the first time, and then many times after that. We trained on the weekend before the retreat and on the weekend afterwards in listening not just to all the separate voices, but also to the greater truth of the group, the rich and complex language of people sitting in community, bodies stretching to bear witness to everyone in the room, and after that continuing to ask: And who else is in the room? What else must we listen to?

I feel these Zen Peacemakers are on to something, making their gathering place in the ruins of crematoria, in the green killing hills of Rwanda and in the rapacious thievery and violence of the Black Hills in the Dakotas, rooting ourselves in very specific historical events even as the challenge is to address who and what else is in the room. Nothing is without antidote, and even the deepest ash pits will still yield healing herbs to those who know how to search. So perhaps our work—at Auschwitz, Murambi, the Black Hills, Srebrenica, and the streets—is first to bear witness to what happened, and then find some way to create medicinal potions out of blood and cinder, a new chemistry for our precious world.

Who and what else is in the room have been the questions facing our group of spirit holders, whose job it has been to guide the retreat in the direction of its founder’s vision. This group also spent days in training, trying to point this retreat, which is a living, breathing being that renews itself with each new participant at each new gathering, into a deeper and deeper place of not-knowing. Like everyone else, we are a diverse lot with our own respective styles informed by different lands and cultures. As a new generation of leadership takes over, bringing with it more diversity and varied outlooks than ever before, it is important to create and transmit a clear set of rules and guidelines for everyone—participants, staff and spirit holders alike—to support both the spirit and the container of the retreat, and to prevent distraction, confusion and possibly harm. For this reason the spirit holders are in the process of creating an agreement defining ethical values and guidelines that we hope will enable us, as individuals and as a group, to delve deeper and deeper into not-knowing, to bear witness, and take the action that arises.

Many, many bows of appreciation to all who participated in and served this retreat for close to 20 years, and to the souls and spirits of Auschwitz.



We recommend you tour Krakow before or after the retreat to add to your experience. Self-guided tours or guides are available – the tours are nots included in your fee.

Krakow Tour – 

(Recommended sites marked in bold)

  1. Main Square, including: Sukiennice (the Cloth Hall), the old city hall tower, and the houses around the square
  2. Mariacki Cathedral and square next to it with a fountain.  And every hour you can hear the Mariacki bugle-call
  3. take Grocka Str. and from there turn into Kannonicza Str.
  4. Wawel Hill with the castle and the cathedral, and the dragon cave nearby
  5. take the path through Blonia (green park around the Main Square) along Święta Gertruda Str. (Saint Gertruda Str.) till Sienna Str. turn to Mały Rynek (the Small Square) and follow Florianska Str.
  6. go to the end of Florianska Str. to Florianska Gate: there you can see the old city walls
  7. Barbakan
  8. back to Świętego Jana Str. (Saint John Str.) – Czartoryski Museum with Leonardo da Vinci painting „Lady with the Ermine”
  9. Świętego Tomasza Str. (Saint Thomas Str.) and Szczepanski Square with The Old Theatre
  10. Collegium Maius of Jagiellonian University, 15 Jagiellonska Str.


Special attractions:

1. Rynek Undergroung permament exhibition (two hours’ tour)


2. „Wieliczka” Salt Mine (half a day trip; 30 minby car to Wieliczka town)


3. Sanctuary of Misericordia  Cracow-Lagiewniki (3 hours) 

to get there: tram line number 8 or 10 from the city center


Restaurants & Cafe recommendation (around the Old Town):

Hawelka, 34 Main Square

Chimera, 3 Święta Anna Str. (Saint Anna Str.)

Wedel Cafe, 46 Main Square (hot chocolate specialty)

Camelot, 17 Święty Tomasz Str. (Saint Tomas Str.)

Jama Michalika, 45 Florianska Str.

Pod Różą, 14 Florianska Str.

Charlotte, 2 Szczepanski Square

Prowincja Nowa Cafe, 3-5 Bracka Str.

Karma, 12 Krupnicza Str. (veggie bar & cafe)

Pod Norenami, 6 Krupnicza Str. (veggie)

Bona Cafe, 11 Kanonicza Str.


Jewish History Path – 1 day tour, but if you do not have much time you can just visit the most significant places (marked in bold )

Kazimierz District:

1. The Old Synagogue, 24 Szeroka Str.

2. The Small Synagogue (Popper Synagogue), 16 Szeroka Str.

3. The New Synagogue (Remu Synagogue, the only active synagogue) with the old

Jewish cementery, 40 Szeroka Str.

4. The new Jewish cementary, 55 Miodowa Str.

5. The Temple Synogogue, 24 Miodowa Str.

6. Jewish Square (Plac Żydowski) take Estery Street

7. The Kupa Synagogue, 8 Warszauera Str.

8. The Izaaka Jakubowicza Synagogue, 16 Kupa Str.

9. The High Synagogue, 38 Jozefa Str.

10. Galicja Jewish Museum, 18 Dajwor Str.

take: Saint Wawrzynca Str., Gazowa Str. and Podgorska Str. to 11

11. Kladka Bernatka Bridge, Podgorska Str.

Podgorze District:

12. Plac Bohaterów Getta – Square of the Heros of the Ghetto

take Jozefinska Str. and Targowa Str.

13. Museum „Apteka pod Orłem” – The Pharmacy under the Eagle,

18 Plac Bohaterów Getta 

take street: Na Zjeździe, Kącik and Lipowa to

14. Schindler’s Factory Emalia – Museum, 4 Lipowa Str.


Restaurants & Cafe recommendation:

Kazimierz District:

Mlynek Cafe, 7 Wolnica Square – highly recommended – (vege & jewish)

Momo, 49 Dietla Str. (vege)

Alchemia, 5 Estert Str.

Polakowski, 39 Miodowa Str.

Singer Cafe, 20 Estery Str.

Kolory Cafe, 10 Estery Str.

Mleczarnia Cafe, 20 Meiselsa Str.

Artistic Cake Gallery Cafe, 22 Bozego Ciała Str.

Marchewka z Groszkiem, 2 Mostowa Str.

Vanilla Cafe, 13 Brzozowa


Podgórze District:

Cafe Rękawka, 4B Brodzinskiego Str.

Makaroniarnia, 3 Brodzinskiego Str.

Zakładka, 2 Józefinska Str.

Cava Cafe, 1 Nadwiślańska Str.

For more information, please contact: [email protected]



Hotel Royal offers a special discount to our retreat participants. This will also be the central home-base for our retreat in Krakow and we recommend you stay there. When you register, please indicate if you’d like to join this group reservations, and we will place you according to our best effort. Participants are responsible to pay their own bill before departure from the hotel.

Hotel Royal Krakow 26-29 Saint Gertruda Str. phone: +48 12 421 35 00 http://hotelewam.co.uk/510-hotel-royal-krakow.html

Other hotels (no special discount):

Hotel Campanile Krakow 34 Saint Tomas Str. phone: +48 12 424 26 00 http://www.campanile-cracovie.pl/pl

Aparthotel 13 Grodzka Str. phone: 0048 662 099 640 http://www.aparthotel-cracow.com/

Hotel Pollera 20 Szpitalna Str. phone: 0048 12 422 10 44 http://www.pollera.com.pl/pl,kontakt.php

Hotel Polski pod Białym Orłem

17 Pijarska Street phone: 0048 12 261 38 30 http://www.donimirski.com/hotel-polski

Hotel Wenzl 19 Main Square phone: 0048 12 430 26 64 http://wentzl.pl/pl/contact.html

Cafe Młynek B&B 7 Plac Wolnica, Kazimierz District phone: 0048 12 43 06 202 http://cafemlynek.com/

Budget Lodgings:

Goodbye Lenin Revolution Hostel 9 Dolnych Młynów Street, Kazimierz District phone:  0048 12 421 20 30 or 0048 12 341 46 66 http://goodbyelenin.pl/   

Trzy Kafki Hostel 29 Aleje Slowackiego phone: 0048 12 632 94 18 www.trzykafki.pl


Many, many books have been published concerning the Holocaust. Those listed below are particularly recommended because they are very powerful personal accounts of bearing witness and/or raise complex moral and spiritual issues. Suggested readings for first time attendees to the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat, we highly recommend that you read at least one of the following books before the retreat:

Personal Testimonies

Ka-Tzetnik 135633, Shivitti: A Vision (A must read – recommend by Bernie Glassman)

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (also published as If This Is a Man)

Elie Wiesel, Night

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941- 1943

Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After

Claude Lanzmann, Shoah – An Oral History of the Holocaust

Jean-Francois Steiner, Treblinka

Wladyslaw Szpilman, The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945

Ka-Tzetnik 135633. Kaddish

Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess

Essays, treatises, contemplations

Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

Jean Amery, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities

Helen Epstein, Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters

of Survivors

Lawrence L. Langer, Admitting the Holocaust: Collected Essays

Lawrence L. Langer, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory

Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness


Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: A New History

Literary Works

Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

Yaffa Eliach, Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Bernhard Schlink, The Reader

Ursula Hegi, Stones from the River


Again, a lot of films have been made connected to the holocaust. This selection is personal. We have tried to include films made in various countries.

Son of Saul (László Nemes; Hungary 2015)

Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg; USA 1993)

The Pianist (Roman Polanski ; Poland, France, Germany, UK 2002)

Elle s’appelait Sarah (Sarah’s Key) (Gilles Paquet-Brenner; France 2010)

La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) (Roberto Benigni ; Italy 1997)

Lore (Cate Shortland; Australia, Germany, UK 2012)

Au revoir les enfants (Goodbye, Children) (Louis Malle; France 1987)

Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (The Final Days) (Marc Rothemund ; Germany 2005)

Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) (Alain Resnais ; France 1955 – documentary)


For more information, please contact [email protected], Tel:+(49)-176-281-88590