As I write this post, it has been a little over a week since we had our tour of the concentration camp Auschwitz near Krakow Poland and to tell you quite honestly I am having trouble writing this. So many thoughts and images run through my mind when I think back to this day. I guess its partly because after we left, I repressed all of the memories and I haven’t really stopped to think about it until today.
So, in order to spare all of your emotions and place descriptive images into your heads about what I saw, I will just touch on my reactions.
When we rolled up to the entrance of Auschwitz I, today a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage site, I could not believe my eyes. I have seen countless sad movies, read thousands of heart-wrenching books and even taken a course or two about Jewish history and the Holocaust in depth, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see.
The first thing one notices when you drive up to Auschwitz and look at all of the buildings, is the fact that they are all red brick structures. In all of the photographs and films, they are always displayed as wooden huts that are falling apart, but according to our amazing tour guide, the area was previously a Polish military camp until Nazi Germany took over and renamed the area that we call “Auschwitz” and the surrounding town Oswiecim. It wasn’t until later in the tour that I realized a nearby concentration camp, Auschwitz II – Birkenau, is where the initial illustrations of the camps had come from.
Going through all of the buildings where people had gone through so much suffering, just because of their beliefs and “impurity” not only makes you sad, but it reminds you how important it is to hold true to what you believe in.
Our tour guide the whole day, whom by the way was absolutely amazing and highly recommended, told us countless survival stories along with stories of those who did not make it. One in particular that is today the most mainstream is of course the story of Anne Frank. After hiding with her whole family in an attic during her adolescence and through the Auschwitz II concentration camp, she was killed only two weeks before liberation of the camp from the Red Army. This story and many more remind you of how brave the victims of the Third Reich really were.
Although many of the camps prisoners did not revolt or try and escape, you can understand how it was nearly impossible to do so. Many people say the Jews were weak during the Holocaust, and those that did not help them were cowards, but what people don’t understand, is the reality of the way life was during those times in Nazi-occupied territories, especially the camps.
If people rebelled or attempted to escape, the camp officers would punish everyone for their transgression against the Nazi regime. So it was almost cowardly to try and escape all the while knowing that you would be putting someone else’s’ life at risk. I imagine it was much more gallant to stay, when you know what the future holds.
I think everyone in the word should have the chance to go to Auschwitz and have the experience I did in order to remember the suffering and bravery that transpired. The quote I opened this post with is not only extremely moving, but also very truthful.
It is unbelievable that something this terrible happened during many of our parents and grandparent’s lifetimes, and even more so that genocides of this nature are still occurring today.
For those of you that are abnormal like me and find joy in learning about terrible wars and atrocities in history; don’t worry, we aren’t terrible people; we just understand the need to NEVER FORGET. The Holocaust was a genocide by definition: “The deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.”
Society needs to be reminded not of the number of people who suffered and lost everything they had including their lives, but to commemorate the courage that was displayed in order to hold true to ones beliefs and attempt to survive.