International Getaways · Poland

An Infamous Concentration Camp

I struggle to write this post, because how can you sum up a half-day excursion to the site of a mass genocide? It’s such an embarrassing part of our history as a human race. I’m so ashamed that this was allowed to happen, that one powerful orator took so much authority, and that the rest of the world failed to step in until it was already too late for so many families. My heart hurts for those lost, for those who suffered, and also for those who were forced against their will to do these horrible things just to survive; I imagine their conscience suffered for much longer than their actions seventy years ago.

An eerie entrance.
An eerie entrance.

We awoke pretty early as we decided we had to start our day with the Auschwitz excursion so as to have time after for positive activities once back in Krakow. The shuttle from Krakow to the camp was a little over an hour or so, and we made small talk with those in our vehicle, all of us a little nervous for what was to come. It’s so ironic that seventy years ago, this exact trek was made by persecuted human beings. I wonder what they talked about to pass time. To keep calm. To ensure their peace of mind as they spent up to three weeks locked in cattle car on their way to a death they never saw coming.

“Work Will Free You”
Prisoners were allowed a 25kg suitcase, and brought all kinds of personal possessions.
Prisoners were allowed a 25kg suitcase, and brought all kinds of personal possessions.
Lost it when I saw the baby clothes. Poor, poor babies.
Lost it when I saw the baby clothes. Poor, poor babies.
Cynical motifs on the walls of the bathrooms.
Cynical motifs on the walls of the bathrooms.
Rubble from a gas chamber.
Rubble from a gas chamber.
Remains from the housing units. They went on forever.
Remains from the housing units. They went on forever.

I’ve always had an odd fascination with the Holocaust. I’ve read so many books, seen so many documentaries, and even had the honor of hearing a speaker tell their tale over ten years ago at my church. But nothing prepares you for seeing this place in person. At one point, I literally wanted to vomit as I was so overcome by the sick actions of these people. How could the world let this happen!? I also learned so much during our tour, and my summarization of this infamous Hitler and his team is that they were even more terrible that I ever imagined. It was almost as if they got a sick sense of pleasure out of torturing these poor, innocent people. For example, we learned that the elderly and disabled who were too weak to make the walk from the entry gates of Auschwitz to the area the gas chambers were in were escorted on special trucks bearing the emblem of the Red Cross logo. Why?! Just to take an extra step to make these poor people feel a false sense of security? These innocent people were escorted to the same chambers as everyone else in special cars for absolutely no logical reason. These little extras made the whole thing even more disgusting to me. It’s almost as if it was made a game, a game of trickery and mockery and I felt so hopeless and angry the more details I learned about Auschwitz. This was truly a hell on earth for so many.

Maximillian Kolbe's cell. He sacrificed his life and took a starvation sentence so another man would be spared.
Maximillian Kolbe’s cell. He sacrificed his life and took a starvation sentence so another man would be spared.
Eight people slept in each row, and the top row was favored as vermin and feces were less likely found at the top level.
Eight people slept in each row, and the top row was favored as vermin and feces were less likely found at the top level.

I truly believe that everyone should have to see what happened Auschwitz (or any concentration camp), in person, at least once. Elie Wiesel once stated, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” If we don’t force people to know about this, we risk the chance of allowing something like this on such a massive, horrible scale to happen again. And don’t even get me started on the genocides that happen to this day, or this post will be ten times longer. We all need to better the world, for if we don’t work together, what are we left with? Life is way too short to not work towards a better future not only for ourselves, but for future generations.

Monique

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