Auschwitz & Birkenau

Auschwitz Travel Blog

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Gates surrounding Auschwitz.
Auschwitz was completely different from what I had pictured in my mind. If I didn't know anything about it, and it wasn't surrounded by electrified barbed wire, I would have just thought I had stumbled into a red-bricked, tree-lined dormitory building complex of some idyllic college campus.

Of course, the reality of the situation hit home when I entered one of the buildings which had been converted into a museum, and looked upon a giant room with over two tons of human hair piled up in it. When prisoners were taken here, their hair was shaved in order to make rope and other fabrics. Other rooms were filled with discarded shoes (thousands and thousands of them), glasses, and suitcases. The fact that an entire complex was created purely to facilitate the murder of a people, and that such evil exists in the world, should shock even the most jaded mind.
Incongruous tree-lined paths.

Equally shocking, however, was the fact that Auschwitz seems to have turned into a tourist spectacle. While I think that it is important that as many people are aware of the shocking atrocities that have happened in our not-so-far away past, it had a bit of a circus atmosphere to it. There were hot dog and food stands immediately outside the complex. There were three tour group operators chattering away next to the "death wall", a slab of concrete where thousands of people were executed, right next to a sign that said "Please be silent to respect the loss of life that happened here." There was a man finishing up a business deal on his cell phone. There was a man who was banging and tapping  on the metal of a human incinerator, like it was a toy. Worst of all, there were lines and crowds everywhere, which made it difficult to give the dead the respect they deserve.

lj_scots says:
I was fortunate I think that it was not busy when I went but if it was, I probably would have had similar views. I do agree however about the food stands etc. I arrived with my tour & was told to wait for 15 mins in the entrance building so I got a cup of teaat the cafe. When my tour began we were led out that door at the end of that building which led us out to the yard where that oh so familiar gate & sign was giving me the feeling that they had slightly sugar coated the place but reflecting I still feel it is one of those places everyone should visit.
Posted on: Apr 21, 2008
maplefanta says:
Even if I was as well astonished by how does Auschwitz-I actually look (far from my forethought), the fact that I was there in late January gave me quite a different atmosphere. Being mainly alone in most of the barrack and even still be inside the complex by nightfall was quite a fair moment for a thoughtful mind. I have to admit though that the tourist groups coming, rushing and leaving as quick as a falling autumn leaf in the wind are indeed a sad sight.
Posted on: Sep 28, 2007
Isoinspira says:
How sad! My experiences at Dachau were completely different. Upon arriving, there was a respectful silence which lasted the entire time I was there. It's so sad that something this grave and real has turned into such a spectacle.
Posted on: Apr 18, 2007
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Gates surrounding Auschwitz.
Gates surrounding Auschwitz.
Incongruous tree-lined paths.
Incongruous tree-lined paths.
One of the buildings.
One of the buildings.
Birkenau - endless plain of barrac…
Birkenau - endless plain of barra…
Tiny bunks, made even tinier by th…
Tiny bunks, made even tinier by t…
photo by: Jeroenadmiraal