The horibble Auschwitz war history

Auschwitz Travel Blog

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Actually we had planned to make a trip to Chestochowa today, and visit Oswiecim tomorrow. But when we arrived at the bus station it turned out that there were very little buses to Chestochowa and they weren't any faster than the trains. So a 3 hour one way trip seemed too long as the last bus back left pretty early for Krakow. So we decide to drop the Chestochowa idea and go to Oswiecim today.

What can I say about this trip? It sounds wrong to write that I look forward to it, because it isn't something you do "for fun". Auschwitz isn't your relaxing day trip from Krakow. It is the kind of visit you make because it is important, necessary, something you just have to witness.
But I have been wanting to visit for a very long time, and today is the day.

What do I expect? Well I can't really tell. I've heard these stories about people being so shocked they started to cry, or didn't sleep for nights. But I can't imagine I'd be so surprised by what there is to see. I've been very well educated on this topic. At school we learn about this in 3th grade, maybe again in 6th grade, then in high school ones more, at college we've visited Sachsenhausen near Berlin, I've read numerous books and the whole official Auschwitz website, which is about a book too. My grandparents used to tell me stories, about friends of them that suddenly disappeared during the war... So what I mean to say is there isn't much to be seen in Auschwitz that I don't already know.
It is not the facts that can shock me, but I guess the place can. What I don't mean is that it won't leave a serious impression, because it is a horrible confirmation of everything told and taught. It is a shocking prove of one of the darkest events in history. And at this point I don't know just how much it will affect me.

We take a bus from the PKS station to Oswiecim, that drops us of just at the parking space in front of Auschwitz I, the main entrance of the "museum". From there we purchase the tickets and wait about half an hour for the tour to start. We choose to take a guided tour because we all feel like this is the best way to visit the site. But I suppose this depends greatly on the individual.

The day starts with a black and white film on the events that have happened in Auschwitz.
A narrator tells about the life in the camp and the horror that was discovered here after the liberation, while pictures and short movies are shown. Many of the images are really famous ones, but no matter how much time you've seen them already, they stay so hard to look at.

Then the walk starts. All of us get headphones, and the guide speaks into a little microphone, so he doesn't have to raise his voice. I think that is a very proper method to keep serenity, and it is also very practical. It gives you time to stand still longer at a certain building, picture or object, without missing a part of the explanation when the group has already moved on to the next room. So the tour is guided, but you don't have to follow the pace of the group at all time, which is a great bonus.

We first visit whole of Auschwitz I, and then go to Auschwitz II, often called Birkenau. What I remember most about the first site are the jails, where people were locked up for misbehavior and often were sentenced to death and executed. Walking past the rooms it was just impossible to imagine what this place must have been like. Seeing the light of day for the last time, falling misty through a high window while you're fading away, hoping you're loved ones will make it. Maybe looking forward to see perished family members again in heaven. Maybe not hoping or looking forward to anything anymore, not at all. Just lying there waiting to die. The person that ever came up with the sentence of death by starvation was a monster. I can't understand that anyone could ever do this to anyone else.
But here, it was just daily routine.

But if Auschwitz is confronting, Birkenau is even more. The first thing you notice here is the size of the site. How huge it is. Than you walk over the grass where so many stood while being counted, in the hot sun or the ice cold snow. And now here we walk, between this little flowers. How history passes by and we grab on to it, trying to keep it alive. Trying not to forget. Here in Birkenau, you can still feel it. This is the place were the pain and sorrow of thousands still floats around between the few barracks that kept standing. In Auschwitz I there was a sign in one of the buildings, saying "those who forget about their history are bound to make the same mistakes again". That is why everyone should come here. To make sure they won't, to make sure such tragedy will never be repeated.

Standing on the ramps is to me, the most memorable moment of the whole tour through the museum. I stand here thinking, "what would they have done with me? Would I have been fit enough to work? Would I have died in one of those barracks? Or would they have sentenced me to death straight away, sending me to the gas chambers? What about my family? Would I have ever seen them again, after being split up here, at this gravel? What if I had been here?" You try to image, but even though the sadness creeps up to you, the fear and the anger, you realize that it is impossible to feel what these people must have felt. I wonder if I would have been brave, but I think not.

So what have I felt during visiting Auschwitz? Has it been such horrible experience? No, it wasn't.
Yes, it was hard. It was hard because you try to see more that what their is to see. You look at these buildings, but you don't see a building. You see all you know about Auschwitz and the holocaust. You remember those pictures, of skeleton people in the bunk beds, of dying children and burning corpses. You don't see a path of gravel next to a railroad. You see thousands of people, taken from their homes, arriving here daily. You see them being split up, torn apart. You see them being killed in gas chambers, or locked in the camp. The fences aren't just fences, and the gates aren't just gates.

That is what I felt in Auschwitz. The sorrow and sadness. I felt the history of a school book coming to life. And it didn't make me feel sick, nor did it make me cry.
It just made me feel so sorry for all those lives. For those individual stories of each and every victim, not only here, but anywhere. It made me think of all the injustice in the world. I thought of the wall in Berlin and the wall around Palestine. I thought of Tibet, China. Iraq... All these wars, all these people, all these tears. Not to compare them to this place. As nothing is to be compared to this place. But because they have the madness and sadness in common that every war and oppression brings. And I walked out these gates wondering deeply if we, in fact, have learned something of Auschwitz. Or have we not?
Jeroenadmiraal says:
Great description!
Posted on: Aug 16, 2014
texrah says:
I'm going in 3 months. Your blog was really insightful and thought-provoking. You're a great writer!
Posted on: Jul 22, 2014
Gijsje says:
You've described the feeling that I had while visiting Auswitz perfectly. It's a daunting place to be, all those people who have been brought into the camp, never to walk out. Seeing their suitcases, their belongings, their pictures. Being in the place where it all happened... It's a very impressive experience.
Posted on: May 11, 2011
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photo by: Jeroenadmiraal