We have had rainy and cold weather for the past few days, but as we woke up the day we decided to visit Auschwitz – in Polish called Oświęcim – we had beautiful clear blue skies.
The train ride to Oświęcim is 2 hours and as a result we arrived a little later than anticipated. Unfortunately this meant that we ran out of time to tour the nearby Birkenau camp known as Auschwitz II. This camp was both a concentration and extermination camp.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp was built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II.
The main camp we visited was a difficult experience. Even on such a sunny day there was a heavy presence in the air and we would often find ourselves strolling through the row of buildings in silence reflecting on all the information we were gathering.
Here 1.1 million people were murdered, about 90% of them Jews. I was surprised the most when we went through the Polish museum in one of the buildings, and there were stories and pictures of the gore and inhumane practice directed toward the Polish people. Most of the prisoners were Jews, but Hitler instilled into his people that the Pole’s and Gypsies were pretty much barely considered to be one step above pigs.
Another chilling moment was when I looked through the giant book that contained all the names of the prisoners at Auschwitz. I searched my families name and was shocked to find 8 results.
At the conclusion of our tour, we visited the book store and each got a book written from the perspectives of people who lived through the terrors of the camp. We are all going to swap as we finish each. I started a book written from the perspective of a doctor from the camp and even though sometimes the detail is too much to handle, the descriptions are fascinating and I’m learning a lot about the harsh reality a lot of people had to endure.
As we caught the train home we realised that we may have even been travelling on the same path most of the victims of the camp endured when they were packed tightly into carriages and carted off like animals directly into the gas chambers or off towards slave labour.
I have heard from a lot of people before me that this place is a must visit. I am now saying the same thing. I cannot share photos or videos to show you what the experience is like, this blog only really depicts just a short summary of my day. I think the tour affects, to some extent, everyone who passes through the Concentration Camp gates. I personally have learnt a lot from the experience, and I’m sure it will be a memory I will carry with me for life.