A Cry of Despair: Auschwitz & Birkenau

Part of the Classic Rhapsody tour with Busabout includes a stop at Auschwitz & Birkenau. Concentration camps. A series of three that ran through the city of Oświęcim, though the third Monowitz was destroyed.

And you go.

You knew it was coming up when you left the hotel in the morning, and your stomach tied itself in knots because people died here. Not just a few people, but over a million. Not in an accident, or a natural disaster. They were murdered. By other humans.

How do you comprehend that?

You don't.

 



And it doesn't even look how you expected, because you're more used to seeing this: 



 

As I mentioned above, the camps were split into 3 parts, Auschwitz I, the first pictures I've shown you and Auschwitz Camp II Birkenau as well as the destroyed Monowitz camp. The one they used for the movies about the War. There's less of this one, they started demolishing it before deciding what to do with it, and for me, I was glad to get out of Auschwitz I. 

The tour starts in Auschwitz I where a series of buildings with barbed and electric wire surrounds their complex. You are walked through these with a guide, usually Polish and usually from Oświęcim. Ours, a lady, who is also a teacher talked us through this horrific place. 


You go through a series of different rooms with luggage, and clothing, and shoes, and glasses, and pots, and pans and hair. My God, the hair. I was struggling to breathe in this place, and none of it was happening to me, I was just listening to someone else telling us an account of what happened here. We went outside after the room with the hair, I felt... numb. Tears streaming down my face, seeing hair, part of them. Those murdered people.

We still had a long way to go, too. We were just in the first camp.

The killing wall. It's so.... clean. 

I added a stone at the bottom, as a mark of respect. 


 

The only gas chamber on the first camp, people were sent to Auschwitz I to work, though most people barely managed 9 months here. Some people didn't even manage a day. 

On the bus to the second camp, we sat in silence. Four girls at the back of the bus were chatting amongst themselves- they'd already been to Auschwitz and I can understand why they didn't want to go in for the second time- but otherwise everyone just sat looking out of their windows until we pulled up to Birkenau.


I was drained and sad and numb and struggling to decide whether or not to get off the bus again once I got here, but I did it. I had to. I felt less claustrophobic here, I guess not going from room to room and most of Birkenau being destroyed meant we were mostly outside.

The sun shines here, but the birds they don't sing.

 



collapsed gas chamber 


Forever let this place be a cry of despair,
And a warning to humanity,
Where the Nazi's murdered about One and a half Million
Men, Women and Children,
Mainly Jews,
From various countries of Europe

Should you go? 

Yes, everyone should. To remember.





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Comments

  1. This is a great post! We lived in the Czech for 2 years just over the border and have done this trip really emotional and amazing place to visit! thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, it is so emotional. Thanks for reading.

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  2. This is a really well written article. I felt uncomfortable just reading it. So I think you managed well to describe with words what one feels when visiting the actual site. TThanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler.

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    1. Thanks, I so appreciate this comment- I wasn't sure I'd articulated myself well enough! Like you said, it's hard trying to describe in words how you feel there. I'm glad I went, but I don't think I'll go to any other's, now.

      And yay #SundayTraveler - my first :)

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  3. When I was in Germany I was in two minds about visiting that place. Partly because I knew I just wouldnt be able to handle it. Its amazing the level of cruelty we as people can inflict on ever other. Even with such crazy history we are still continuing to torture each other, not in the same way as the gas chambers but nevertheless still very cruel leading to loss of lives even to this modern day.

    KÖLNER DOM | COLOGNE CATHERDRAL

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    1. Did you go? I know exactly what you mean. I wanted to go, and I'm glad I did, but it was truly awful. You are right, of course, what with things going on in Syria right now and even as close to home as the Ukraine.

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I've wondered whether I have the fortitude to visit these concentration camps if I'm ever in the area. Just reading stories of all the horrifying acts tears at my soul, and part of me wants to just avoid thinking about it. I watched The Book Thief last week, and there's this one scene where Jewish men are walking/stumbling through town clearly on their way to a not-so-good place. The girl runs down the line of men, touching their hands and saying, "I won't forget you." Visiting a concentration camp seems to be a way to honor these victims and let them know that the horrors that they had to endure are not forgotten. I'm headed to Cambodia next month. The primary reason is to visit Angkor Wat. I've considered going to one of the Killing Fields sites but decided against it since my kids will be with me. I don't want to forget, but I don't want to remember either.

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    1. I think it's a good choice not going with kids. I have yet to see the Book Thief, but the book is on my bookshelf waiting to be read. It is a highly personal choice, and I do understand that some people would find it too emotional, but I'm glad I went.

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  5. Beautifully written piece conveying the horror and sadness of these places. I've visited a concentration camp in the Cz Republic and the Killing Fields in Cambodia but not Auschwitz and I'll never forget either. Such emotive places.

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    1. I think, though I don't know, that once you've been to one concentration camp you don't need to go to another (obviously some people will want to still) but I don't plan on going to another one. Tho' I might go to the Killing Fields in Cambodia.

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  6. You've done a great job with this Sammi - its such a terrible, terrible part of our human history. Its so important to never forget, and make sure that we pay our respects. I have never had the chance to go to one, but I do hope I can go and pay my respects someday. Big thanks for linking up with us to #SundayTraveler

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    1. Thanks SJ- I'm so glad I finally linked up with #SundayTraveler

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  7. Well said. We have been to Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Dachau, though all during the winter. Somehow seeing the snow on the ground made the reality even more stark. People not only were forced to do backbreaking labor here, but in tattered clothing and shoes in the bitter cold. It was awful to be there, but as you said necessary. May we never forget so that we may learn to never repeat.

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    1. I can only imagine. The guide who took us around told us about the cold winters there, also. It sounded utterly horrific. I had the chance to go to Dachau a couple of years ago, but didn't go. Was it much different to Auschwitz?

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  8. I love history, especially WWII history and really want to do a WWII only trip. I can't imagine all the emotions that would come with visiting a place like this, but I think it's so important for everyone to experience. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler :)

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    1. No problems.
      I don't know if I could cope doing an entire trip just on WWII, Auschwitz was emotional enough. We actually went on a pub crawl in the evening- but it worked well to lift our spirits after going to Auschwitz, I can definitely see why they do it that way around.

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