It has taken me a while to think about how to write about an experience as harrowing, as disturbing as Auschwitz. It was our 3rd day in Krakow, we had seen some beautiful things, tasted some amazing food and enjoyed some glorious weather, when we decided we were prepared for the camps.
Auschwitz is actually divided into three camps, one of which was bombed by the Americans and no trace of it remains. The original site remains and the second site is Auschwitz Birkenau, an extension of the camps.
The first camp was built on refurbished military grounds, in which they changed the interiors to barely usable facilities that would house Polish, Hungarian Jews, enemies of state and many others. From scattered straw on the grounds, to toilets that would barely hold the entire camp, it is a disturbing sight to imagine all those lives, all those people there.
We were shown things such as people’s hair, which was supposed to be sold for wigs but was kept and has over the years lost its colour; people’s belongings, such as pans, hair brushes, shoes, suitcases, things they believed they needed as they were told they would be going to work and somewhere else to live. They were lied to.
They showed us torture cells, cells that were 1 metre by 1 metre wide, with a door that came no higher than my knees and 4 people were forced to crawl into it and stand there together. With an area as small as that they had no place to sit, no light of day, no air. They were called the standing cells. They showed us rooms where they first tested the gas later used in gas chambers.
In Birkenau, the conditions were even worse, with the camp separating families, men from women, and even racial division, it felt a desolate barren place, where housing was made for barn animals and not for people.
Both sights were horrifying. Walking in I had mentally prepared for it to be awful, but never for the photos, the evidence, the markings on walls, the scent of desperation lingering on the walls, the faces of so many that walked through those doors and suffered those horrors. I wasn’t prepared to have such a vivid imagination, to see it all play out in my head. I feel I have no right to claim the suffering that was felt here, I have no connection to this history. I do, however, feel like many others a sense of longing for the lost lives. I wanted to come to Auschwitz to pay my respects for the horrible things that happened here in the past, the things these peoples endured because of the madness and ideas of a xenophobe and dictator. This puritan that only spoilt the world.
I took only two photos of Auschwitz, the two you see featured here. Both from the original camp, below you will see the kitchen barracks and above the entrance to the camp, which feature the infamous gates that read ‘work makes you free!’. A lie, a lie that was told to so many who thought that they could indeed buy their freedom, one day. A truly sickening sentence for a despicable place and man that deceived so many people and convinced many more that what he was doing and propelling was the correct thing to do. What I saw will forever be etched into my mind, no photos are necessary as the memory will live vividly in me and the odour still follows me to certain places.
I can’t, my dear readers, describe to you in any more detail the horrible sight that I feel the whole world should come and see. It is truly a place to behold and take in, one aspect at the time, for that is the only way you will survive such a treacherous place, and even though you cannot understand fully the horrors that were here committed, the idea of it alone makes mt blood boil, nails curl and skin crawl. The pits of my stomach cry in agony for the pain that was inflicted in Auschwitz, but nothing could have, ironically, been more enlightening. A reminder of the madness that was committed during WWII that should serve as an example for the rest of the world, should they forget. I sincerely hope they do not forget and mistakes as such can never be performed again.