Do i really need to introduce Auschwitz? I’m pretty confident in thinking that anyone who has sat in a history class since maybe 1950 knows exactly what happened there and where it is. I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with the wars, not entirely sure why. Not entirely sure what started it. But from a fairly young age I would sit and watch old war films and documentaries with my Mum.
After knowing everything that happened at these two infamous camps when we finally booked our trip to Krakow through “Escape to Poland”. Who by the way I highly recommend for anyone thinking of making any sort of trip to Poland they are incredibly helpful and VERY reasonably priced. But I digress after knowing everything that happened there, when it came to visiting the two sites back in October I was fully prepared for an overwhelming flood of emotion as we set about exploring what had been the final home of so many prisoners of war.
However this weirdly was not the case. Auschwitz 1, still looks very modern, almost like a boarding school or military barracks from the outside. It’s very difficult to picture anything so sinister ever taking place. I would go as far as to say it almost looks “normal”. Don’t get me wrong there is a coldness in there air, emphasised by the guide who walks you step by step through the camp giving very precise details of exactly what took place over the years inside those fences. The rooms over flowing with peoples belonging are over powering. It’s impossible to get your head around the sheer volume of the operation and the sheer volume of people passing through these gates. It isn’t something I can adequately get across in a short blog post. In fact I could sit across a table talking to you face to face, and until you went to look for yourself you would never grasp the sheer scale of what happened.
Birkenau, seriously when we arrived as it is about 10 minutes drive from Auschwitz 1 I was astounded by the vastness of the compound. As you enter though the famous railway arch the camp just unfolds before your eyes literally rolling off into the distance in either direction. Most of the huts are no longer standing just the brick chimneys
stand lonely. Walking to the back of the camp there were two gas chambers and crematoriums in each gas chamber 2000 innocent people were murdered in a 20 minute period. Just think about that for a second. Where do you live? we worked out, at that rate the whole of Nottingham (my home town) could be murdered and burned in 20 days. A whole city *poof* gone. This actually happened, it isn’t some kinda of game of thrones style book people lived this!
The camp is silent, it’s very strange. People say the birds don’t even sing near by and its true, you could hear a pin drop among the hundreds of people that are there. I would describe the atmosphere as numbing, a loss of emotion, the mind cannot process all of the information its being given. You already know most of the facts and figures but being there makes it real, makes you realise that when you sit in your class room learning the numbers and facts you are very un aware of its real impact. Until you see it with your own eyes your mind doesn’t actually acknowledge the scale of the crime. People lived through what we are taught back home. Until i got there and i stood on the same ground they stood on it didn’t really sink in.
The defining moment for me. This really changed my prospective on it all and hit hard. Me and my mum were there to see the two huge sites, to witness first hand a piece of history that had a huge role in forming todays modern world, and while we were doing that we were stood by men women and children. Who had come to pay their respects to family members who had lived out their final hours in these camps and had paid the ultimate price at the hands of one of the worlds most infamous dictators.
Effectively making Birkenau the worlds biggest grave yard.