Friday, January 28, 2005

Yesterday

“We woke up at 7:30 am this morning in Krakow. After breakfast we got on the bus and started heading for Auschwitz and Birkenau. After we arrived we saw this room with pictures and a really powerful statue. As we left the room to embark on our tour we saw the sign over the camp. It was the same sign that I saw in pictures many times before but somehow actually being there really made me think. We began to tour what were once called blocks – now they are restored and definitely resemble museums. Inside were many pictures and quotes from the Holocaust. The museums also contained artifacts that belonged to the inmates – human hair, shoes, clothing, suitcases with last names written across them, dishes, shoe polish, etc. On our way out of Auschwitz we saw a brief historical movie. I had a much different feeling when I was at Birkenau. For some reason it seemed much colder and more real to me. The barracks where the inmates lived and beds they slept in really made me visualize the whole thing in a way the movies and artifacts did not. Tears came to my eyes when I saw the toilets that the inmates used. When I was sitting at the memorial and saw the incense burning I sat and wondered about the same question that has always come to my mind about the Holocaust: How could human beings have been so cruel and inhuman to other human beings regardless of race, religion, or physical disability? Looking at and standing in the krematoriums and gas chambers with the finger nail marks going up and down the cement walls just repulsed me and I couldn’t believe I was standing where it actually happened.”

That was my journal entry on June 24, 1992, the day I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. Pardon my trite attitude but I was only 16. I remember the horror I felt that day very well though and the difficulty I had even writing those words. I would add that I was there on a warm summer day and the sun was shining brightly. It’s ironic that the sun could shine so brightly on such a place, is it not?

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

12 Comments:

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