There’s no string of words I could form that could possibly describe anything close to what it’s like to walk through Auschwitz. No string of words that can truly help you understand what it’s like to stand in a place where millions were murdered. It’s taken me awhile to write this blog post because still, I don’t know what to say.
The experience was one I honestly never really expected to have. It wasn’t something that I would have ever gone out of my way to do, but It was an experience given to me by my study abroad program and I am so grateful for it.
Kraków, Poland is a beautiful city. Very similar to Prague in looks, night life and prices, but a bit different in history. My study abroad program, CEA, set up a couple tours for us the first day, one around the city center and one around the Jewish quarter.
The next day we took buses to Oswiecim, Poland, to see the concentration camps. I remember being very preoccupied with the thought that I wouldn’t react the right way. But there wasn’t a “right” way to react. Everyone is different. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and knows different things about the camps. I saw looks of confusion, anger, horror, but the most common emotion I saw was sadness. For me, i was overwhelmed. It was impossible for me to learn about all this pain and suffering and not try to put myself in their shoes and take the pain as my own. How could this have happened ? How could we have let this happen? One of the hardest things was owning up to the terrible humanity we belong to. A humanity that was capable of attempting to take out a whole portion of the human race.
As for Auschwitz itself, it’s composed of three camps. The first (Auschwitz 1) was set up well for the tours, with the buildings turned into mini museums. The second (Auswchwitz birkenau) took up a bigger area and seemed more desolate , much of it was destroyed at the end of the holocaust and the ruins remain for visitors to see. Auschwitz was smaller, we didn’t visit it.
At the beginning of the tour for auschwitz 1 there was a sign. I didn’t capture a picture of it because I was too busy really taking in the words my tour guide said about it. The sign read “arbeit macht frei” , meaning “work will set you free”..