My Trip to Poland with Zen: Day 12 – September 6, 2015.
Traveling usually fills me with joy and wonderment. I love exploring places and experiencing new things. Today was a little different. There would be no joy in today’s travel and I knew that last night. Today, I went to Auschwitz. Today was the day when I truly wondered how the words “human” and “humanity” could possibly be related. The evil that took place here lingers and the criminality that took so much from so many continues to draw millions to this place, yet thankfully, their crimes only inflict grief and draw tears today.
The famous gate at Auschwitz I that translates to “Work will set you free.” Our guide said that he has never found an example of a prisoner who was ever set free due to their dedication to work at this camp.
I don’t think that I can add much to what has already been said about this place other than it haunts you to see it person. As a student of history, I couldn’t come to Krakow without going here and there was much I learned at Auschwitz. But Auschwitz is more about feeling than learning. One can’t come here without feeling history rather than learning about it.
I tried to walk through this place as dispassionately as possible and almost held it together completely until we went by an entire room with a glass wall that was entirely filled with the human hair of the victims that the Germans didn’t have time to send to the factories that made socks and uniforms out of it.
Here are some of the pictures I took:
Used canisters of Zyklon B which was used to gas the prisoners. Oddly, the largest market for this product before the war was the United States where it was used as an insecticide.
Some of the thousands of prisoner suitcases left behind by the Germans as the Soviets approached. So as not to alarm the prisoners about losing their possessions, the Germans instructed the prisoners to write their names on the outside of their bags so that the luggage could be returned to them which in fact was never the plan.
Some pictures of the prisoners that were processed at Auschwitz. Most of the victims were killed shortly after getting off the train and were never even processed. You’ll notice a familiar surname among these women?The woman in the middle left is Bronislawa Rosiek. I don’t know if she is related to us.
Most of the “political prisoners” such as Polish intellectuals, teachers, officials, clergy, etc. that were murdered here were not gassed but rather shot by firing squad at this wall.
The original gas chamber.
The entrance for the majority of prisoners at Auschwitz II – Birkenau… most of the prisoners that came here died with an hour of getting off the train at this spot.
The remains of the gas chamber at Birkenau. The Nazis could murder up to 5,000 people a day here.
Inside of the Death Barrack. This is where women who had been selected to die were housed for the hours to days before they were murdered. Five women slept in each shelf section.