Sweat and Blood-Read this before you go for yourself

Auschwitz Travel Blog

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'That a Crumpler?' the guy sitting next to me on the teeny-tiny bus to Auschwich asks this morning about my camera bag, as we head out into the appropriately overcast Polish countryside. What I really heard from the question was English and an American accent I could understand, and grateful for the chance to make a friend on the way to a day I knew would be fairly depressing, I answered and soon we were talking about anything and everything related to travel. I had joked to friends that I wanted to find someone in my hostel to cuddle with after seeing the frightening reality that is this concentration/death camp, but I'll gladly settle for someone to share it with.

After receiving our headsets so we could hear the tour guide, we watched a short documentary on the horrors of the Holocaust to give us a background on what we would be seeing.

The first part of the tour was in many of the old buildings in Auswich I, which were actually converted barracks and offices from the Polish Army that were taken over by the Reich. As we went through room after room of artifacts and photos a million thoughts went through my mind.

A display of shoes. Some of them are so nice. Someone used to take pride in wearing those, thought they looked nice in them, were grateful for something to walk through the cold in. They were murdered.

An entire huge case of human hair. That hair is from real people. REAL PEOPLE. They lived ordinary lives, washed their hair, brushed it with those brushes piled there in that other display. I can just imagine a young girl getting ready for her first date, looking in the mirror and making sure everything was in place.

The death wall
In cold, ruthless blood, they were all killed, shaved of their dignity.

Children's shoes. They were so innocent. The lives they could have lived, the people they could have loved, the friends they could have laughed with. The chance to live stripped away before they even really understood life.

Photos on the wall of Jews sent to work camps, dates of when they arrived and when they died. They must have been so scared. Some lived only a few days or weeks. Each room and each building brought more and more horrors to light. Drawings by survivors of victims piled in trains, getting out and being chosen on the spot for death or work, starving, dead. Rooms where fake trials were held for scholars and government officials.

Rows and rows where they crammed their "slaves" in-prefabricated horse stalls turned into living quarters
The room where a bishop sacrificed his life in place of a man who had his whole family with him. Rows of rooms where people were crowded in and starved to death.

A wall referred to as the 'death wall,' where people were shot in the back of the head in front of other frightened prisoners. The square for roll call where people at times had to wait in the snow and cold for hours, getting frost bite, and at times were forced to witness public executions. Just writing about it now makes me sick. I realized that I was almost shaking. 'Maybe food will make me feel better; I'm starving!' I think to myself as we're wrapping up the first half of the tour.

Then I think about the tens of thousands of people starved to death, and the lucky few who were rexcued so emaciated that couldn't walk on their own and for a second I feel bad complaining to myself after just 4 hours without food, and blessed on the other hand that I can get to food and water whenever I want to.

Entrance to the gas chamber-we got to walk out; it was a one way ticket for them
All in a somber mood, we headed on a bus to the part of the camp that's nearly 20 times the size of this one. Set in a large, lush field and backed by wooded plains, the land might have even been pretty if it weren't for the reality of what happened here. With their own sweat and blood, Jews, gypsies, Poles, etc. built their own deadly destiny.

Rows and rows of wooden barracks housed the prisoners in inhumane conditions. A railway track diverged at the point where people were unloaded like cattle and their fate decided. One of the most chilling moments of the day came when we saw the ruins of the gas chambers that had been set on fire then blown up by Nazis once they realized that the Red Army was on to them. We got to walk in and out.

Their barracks
For all the victims back then, this was a one way ticket. After the tour was over, we walked around and saw the rest of the camp before heading back. A bus ride nearly twice the length of the one we'd taken to get there took us back to Krakov where we had a delicious dinner and conversation on topics other than death. It was good to see what we did today, but I'm glad it's over. I don't feel so well and think I may be getting sick again, so it's off to bed I go!

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The death wall
The death wall
Rows and rows where they crammed t…
Rows and rows where they crammed …
Entrance to the gas chamber-we got…
Entrance to the gas chamber-we go…
Their barracks
Their barracks
The tracks where the Jews, gypsies…
The tracks where the Jews, gypsie…
When the Nazis realized they were …
When the Nazis realized they were…
If you didnt know where this was,…
If you didn't know where this was…
Lives taken.
Lives taken.
photo by: Jeroenadmiraal