Auschwitz-Birkenau

Krakow Travel Blog

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View from hostel window
WARNING:  Posted pictures of Auschwitz-Birkenau and description of my visit.

After a few days of wandering and getting my bearings, including checking out the castle and eating pierogies, I made the trip out to Auschwitz yesterday. 

Interestingly enough, I woke up to the sound of soldiers marching and a band playing.  At first I thought I was dreaming as it was 7 a.m., but I looked out my hostel window down into the street and saw groups of camouflaged men marching down my hostel street.  At that point sleep was futile, so I jumped in the shower.  When I got out, they were marching down the street again, so I asked the gal at the desk what it was all about, and she said something about celebrating something having to do with the Germans and called it a "resurrection" or something.
Marching in unison

 
I decided to go check things out.  Wet hair and hall, I went downstairs where all the soldiers were at ease in the street, staring at me, and I quickly made my way to the square.  There was a military band playing and eventually all the troops started marching again through the square.  I would find out later at the Auschwitz Museum that the Warsaw Uprising during WWII started on August 1st, so it was this, I believe, that was being commemorated, perhaps every first weekend in August?

After snapping numerous photos, I met up with Kate, my new Aussie friend, to head out to Auschwitz.

As mentioned, Kate is from Australia, but her grandparents are Polish.  Her grandmother was about seven when her family was forced into Germany to work.
I like the feathers in their hats
  So her time at Auschwitz was learning more about what her ancesters went through.  I, however, have German ancestry, so I spent the time hoping I didn't see my last name listed anywhere. 

We started in the Auschwitz I camp.  It was so odd as the grounds were very pretty with trees and seemingly peaceful, contrary to all of the atrocities that took place there.  A visit into any of the barracks will quickly take you back, though.  One of the buildings housed all of the victims' belongings, including all of the hair that was taken and used for textiles.  The pile of shoes, suitcases, brushes and other items was shocking.  I didn't really comprehend all that I was seeing until an exhibit about the women and children.  There was a picture of a 13-year old Polish girl name Krystyna whose picture is burned in my memory forever.
Auschwitz main gate
  The look on her face made me choke with tears as her expression was one of horror and sadness.  I almost couldn't breathe.  She survived only five months.

Amidst all of this were throngs of people and tour guides.  It didn't make any sense to me that this was a "tourist attraction."  Groups were walking through the gas chamber/crematorium, taking pictures of themselves in front of the "Death Wall."  I wondered what I was even doing there, and feel weird about taking and posting pictures, but I suppose we shall never forget. 

We then walked over to Birkenau, camp II, which was built later.  The train station was eery.  People arrived there thinking they were coming to a new life only to be taken away, lost forever.

We were both very drained afterwards and made our way back to the hostel in silence for the most part. 
Archie1978 says:
Oh wow.. I remember the day I also visited Auschwitz and Birkenau.. Just all the buildings and all the rooms they had filled with peoples belongings and the hallways with the "mugshots" of the jew... Still remember it like it was yesterday even though 16 years has passed.... It sure was an eery experience seing those two camps....
Posted on: Apr 21, 2008
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View from hostel window
View from hostel window
Marching in unison
Marching in unison
I like the feathers in their hats
I like the feathers in their hats
Auschwitz main gate
Auschwitz main gate
A cynical inscription reads Work …
A cynical inscription reads "Work…
Camp I, view of the street
Camp I, view of the street
Wall of Death - the Block 10 build…
Wall of Death - the Block 10 buil…
Crematorium and gas chamber
Crematorium and gas chamber
Birkenau main gate
Birkenau main gate
Kate walking on the tracks toward …
Kate walking on the tracks toward…
Birkenau - many of the buildings w…
Birkenau - many of the buildings …
Remains of a crematorium and gas c…
Remains of a crematorium and gas …
End of the tracks where the Intern…
End of the tracks where the Inter…
Krakow
photo by: EmyG