It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I felt the whole world subtly alter around me, until it was no longer altogether real.
I was in the movie. No actors, no extras, but the set standing so solidly around me. I'd previously seen this place on the silver screen, silenced into stunned contemplation as part of the audience watching Schindler's List. I'd seen it since in the comfort of my own home, just as moved, as I viewed the DVD on my television.
Now I was there. Walking through it. Like I'd momentarily become celluloid.
It was not the history that struck me here. This wasn't the place where it had all happened. Nor was it the square itself. I'd been living here for two days. It was beautiful and fascinating, but it wasn't yet a film location in my mind.
Now it was. Emotionally, physically, uncannily, it was transformed into a movie scene; and it had carried me with it. That was the power of the music.
In my mind's eye the cars all disappeared and crowds of people took their place. I projected so vividly the desperate queues and huddles up by the railings. I saw again a little girl in a red coat. Then I stopped trying. These were artificial things, being forced onto the scene by my rationality.
Instead I felt what was there. I recognized finally that I was in a desert. There was nobody around. In a place which had once been packed with Jews and the occasional gentile, I was alone. This had been the busiest, most thriving Jewish community in the world. Thousands of people living cheek by jowl.
Seventy years ago, I could not have stood there without company, nor the sight of another living being. The very fact that I was alone gave testimony to the artifice that had been filmed here.
Then I looked up and spotted something that I hadn't noticed before. Amidst the dull colors of a building on the left hand side was a splash of red. A window box filled with flowers. I no longer had to project movie images onto this scene. I had goose-bumps and I was there.