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Scars on mankind’s face : Auschwitz and Birkenau

I cannot write too much about Oswiechim, best knows as Auschwith a true place of horror but I will do my best in trying to explain what I have felt during the half a day visit to the labor camp turned now into a museum.

When my travel companions proposed that we visit Oswiechim I said definitely no. I have read enough books about WWII and the Nazis to know that the visit would be deeply disturbing and I did not want to face such a horror.

 

They insisted and I finally accepted to join them although I was quite scared about my reactions in front of the sight of things that made me so afraid when I was a teenager.

Now, after the visit I think the Oswiechim is a must see place for every person in this world.

Only the constant reminder of what happened there will help us not to let that horror happen again, and those who refuse to accept what has happened there should take a walk through that haunted and haunting place and maybe they will come to their senses.

The museum is extremely well organized and can receive a great number of tourists. It was overcrowded when we visited it even though it was a Friday.

From the attitude and clothing of some of the visitors, I understood that some of them should not have been there because it is a place for pilgrimages not for displaying extravagant minimalist clothes and taking sunbaths, but I think that freedom includes the right of people to be stupid and inappropriate also and we must accept that fact.

Guided tours in several languages are well planned and while waiting for a tour the tourists can see a short movie about the bloody years of Oswiechim.

I felt sick during the film and closed my eyes several times, especially because one of the protagonists was a Romanian, thin as a skeleton, one of the few survivors.

The tour started shortly after and we left the administrative building and followed our guide through the famous gate past the barbed wire fence.

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It’s hard to imagine the horrible things this place has seen, the amount of blood the soil has drank especially in a beautiful summer day and this is why the guide said it is best to visit the museum in winter, because then you can feel better the blistering cold and the horror that it brings.

 

Most of the blocks of Auschwith have been transformed into museum exhibitions showing photos taken illegally during the horrible years or after the liberation, documents kept by the Nazis, photos of the victims, hundred of thousand of personal objects of those who only left the camp as ash blown in the wind.

 

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The spider’s web that was hovering over Europe

 

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The money confiscated from a transport of victims from all over Europe

 

I do not know what visitors see when looking at the photos I am about to show you but I saw a million faces in those personal objects gathered in mountain sized piles.

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I saw the kids wearing those tiny shoes I did not dare photograph, elegant women wearing those fashionable shoes, people filled with hope for a better life writing their names on those suitcases filled with their most precious belongings.

I saw terror beyond imagination in the eyes of those prisoners in the striped suits with the hair shaved, photographed like criminals and treated like animals for the guilt of being from a race the Fhurer decided to hate, being from a minority or simply for possessing something that the Reich wanted.

 

I closed my eyes filled with tears a million times and felt like fainting when I entered the room where tons of hair from the victims was being stored or when I saw the blankets made out of human hair destined for the German citizens.

 

I trembled when the calmly speaking but emotional guide told us so many heart-breaking stories with a strange tremble in his voice. I wanted to turn around and get out of that gate, stop in the green park just outside the gate and breathe deeply because in there I could not breathe properly, but I stayed.

 

I owed it to myself to know and see the truth and to those children with tears in their eyes too frightened to let the tears flow because that would have been a death sentence.

They stared at me from the grey walls and I looked at every little face and tried to make it a part of my memory because our memory is all they have and because such deeds must be lessons well taught in order not to happen ever again.

I took color photos during the tour but the weather was so nice and he green grass and the blue sky made the place look quiet, harmless and peaceful not the terrible place it really was. I decided to make them bw because this is the real color of that place and its history.

These are some of theimages carved in my memory about Oswiechim and Birkenau, some of them because the most terrible cannot be caught on camera:

The main gate at Birkenau the biggest death factory in Europe

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If you ever happen to be in Poland you must go and see Oswiechim and never let pass by you what you will see and hear there.

End of the railway and the end of life for over a million people

 It is my belief that it will make you be a better person and you will realize that you live a happy, privileged life, that you should cherish more.

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One Response

  1. Wordless… In two days from now I will be at Auschwitz. I am packing my stuff asking myself if I’ll ever be able to handle all the mixed-up feelings I expect to experience there and after.

    Like

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