I went to Krakow, Poland last week. As far as I was concerned, it was the most relaxed vacation. Krakow is a very relaxed city, for whom I would need to make a separate post later. This is a story of my trip to Auschwitz.
Auschwitz is a name whose infamy needs no explanation. But just in case you do, here’s the gist. Between 1940-1945, under Nazi occupation, 1.3 million people were moved to this camp (1,1 million of them were Jewish). Ninety percent of these people did not survive this camp. Those numbers were provided by the Auschwitz museum. Yes, Auschwitz was a concentration camp with a history so dark, that memories of things happening on this ground still chokes its present visitor.
A trip to Auschwitz is a depressing one. It simply cannot be otherwise. In a very tragic way, it is not supposed to be. I should have taken the one hour trip to Auschwitz from Krakow as an omen. Nowadays, it takes one hour to get there from Krakow, which is an old city in Poland. Auschwitz still is a small city, I imagine it was even smaller in 1940; it was a village. And it was quite far from Krakow, it did not exactly have the infrastructure to facilitate the transportation of so many people. It took a lot of intent to make it into the hell that it eventually became.
the angel of death was in Auschwitz, in every minute of every day.
-a guide from a group I overheard.
It is difficult to say which part of the tour through Auschwitz was more depressing. Perhaps it is not necessary to make the comparison. If you go Auschwitz today, you will be made to known that there were at least two substantial camps that made the Auschwitz concentration camp: Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II- Birkenau. There are shuttle buses that will take you from one of the complex to the other. Needless to say, they were both haunting in a different way. Auschwitz I has a very ordered complex complete with infirmaries where the horrible human experiment and (sometimes public) execution took place. Auschwitz II is a complex of building rising in the middle of empty lands and fields of grain, a lone desolate place which witnessed very tragic events.
Now, I am wondering whether my descriptions are adequate. I have a very strong feeling they are not. And that is exactly the sensation I felt when I was standing in Auschwitz II Birkenau; how can a place so beautiful have a history so hideous?
NB: I decided to put the following part in this post because I have no idea where else to place them. In Auschwitz I, some of the former barracks are opened and houses permanent exhibition. These photos are part of the exhibition on ‘evidence,’ things that were used as evidence of mass extermination in the Nazi trial. They are things without owners: clothes without bodies, shoes without feet. That is something else my mind simply refuses to dismiss, things without owners that stand as proof that someone ever existed. My brain just cannot…