Day 2

Auschwitz Travel Blog

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Tributes like thise one were left on the train tracks at Birkenau. This one was laid by soldiers to remember comrades who had died in the camp.

I woke up early to make sure I had a good hearty breakfast before I headed off on my first full day in Poland.  I had decided to go to Auschwitz & I booked a tour that would leave at 9am.  I got on a bus where the tour guide put on a video on an 80's style tv about Auschwitz from the Polish point of view, which was quite interesting as probably all of the documentaries I have seen & books I have read on the subject were probably by Western Professors (perhaps that's a bit of a generalisation).  Again, the countryside & villages we drove through reminded me of where I was.  This time however, the running theme was very catholic, with alters & statues of the Virgin Mary there to greet us at every corner.

Arbeit Macht Freit (Work Makes You Free)

When we arrived at Auschwitz, I suddenly found myself feeling quite nervous.  I'd had an invested interest in the holocaust ever since I had met Otto Frank's step daughter a few months previously.  She was a truly inspirational women who had her story turned into a play to raise awarness in children all over the world, which my friend had directed.  The encounter had sturred me on not only to research the holocaust in much more deapth but also choose Poland as my first trip.

The first building encompassed a gift shop & cafeteria where we were told to wait 15 minutes until our tour would commence.  Starting to feel more secure & confident in what was a pleasant environment, I had a cup of tea & then waited at the meeting point for my tour group to gather.

  Our tour guide introduced himself & asked us to follow him outside the opposite end of the building where the gates with 'Arbeit Macht Freit' was the first thing we saw.  My secure, confident self then withered as I stood on a path with two options: either continue towards the gate or down the other path which I instinctively knew lead straight to the gas chamber.  The tour was both interesting & hard at the same time.  I had seen pictures of the camp & knew that I would see the suitcases, human hair, childrens shoes, etc all of which when I did see them tugged at something in my stomach.  The gas chamber & cremetorium gave me a real chill when I walked through, taking note of the scratches on the walls.
The railway coming through 'Hell's Gate'.
  But the hardest thing was in one building where the halls were lined with pictures of prisoners with the date of their birth, date of arrival in the camp & date of death.  I found one girl who was the same age as me when she died who - dressed in the prisoners uniform - bore a smile on her face.  She was in the camp for 2 months before she died.  Outside the main entrance there are signiatures all over the walls & I added mine. 

We then moved on to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp which was almost just like a field with huts in it, although the Nazi's destroyed many of them before the Russians liberated the camp.  When we stood in the guard tower over 'Hell's Gate' looking over the camp, I saw a photo taken from near where I was standing.

The platform in Birkenau where people were sorted as soon as they got off the train into 2 groups, one of which went straight to the gas chambers.
  It was of a train that had arrived & on the platform were 2 groups of new arrivals, one of which was being marched off in the opposite direction.  Walking towards the camera were 3 guards, one of which is looking straight at the camera & smiling.  I looked up & saw exactly where that scene took place & then walked out to where they were all standing.

I expected my visit there to be quite emotional & at certain points there were definately emotions but generally I walked around feeling quite numb.   I don't think a person can quite comprehend what your seeing or hearing whilst you are there.  But certainly after reflecting on my visit & writing blogs like these it's helped & made me realise that that one day has influenced the way I've lived life since.  I feel very strongly about Auschwitz being one of the places everyone should go to at some point in their life.


WanderingWiz says:
Thanks for your blog.
I am contemplating including a trip to Auschwitz and Berkenow during my travels this year (will be there mid-August).
Reading your account is very helpful.
Posted on: May 26, 2009
travelman727 says:
Great blog and photos! I agree with you; everyone should visit Auschwitz & Birkenau at some point.
Posted on: Jul 13, 2008
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Tributes like thise one were left …
Tributes like thise one were left…
Arbeit Macht Freit (Work Makes You…
Arbeit Macht Freit (Work Makes Yo…
The railway coming through Hells…
The railway coming through 'Hell'…
The platform in Birkenau where peo…
The platform in Birkenau where pe…
The old army baracks used for hous…
The old army baracks used for hou…
The Killing Wall
The 'Killing Wall'
The gas chamber
The gas chamber
One of the huts destroyed by the N…
One of the huts destroyed by the …
One of the huts in Birkenau
One of the huts in Birkenau
photo by: Jeroenadmiraal