We took an overnight train from Budapest, Hungary landing us in Oswiecim, Poland at 04:35AM. The train station was simple and warm enough from the elements. As we walked, I could feel the dampness in the air collecting on my jacket. Walking in the cool foggy morning set a precedence of how things could have been on some of those days decades ago. Thinking about how grateful I was to be wearing a jacket, shoes and having food in my rucksack.
Once we arrived on the outskirts of the camps, a feeling started to come over me. The path that led us to the front door had memorial boards. The tributes told the stories of some of the survivors and their lives prior to this horrific experience. The museum opened at 08:00AM. We were the second couple through the doors. I dropped off my backpack and we proceeded to start our voyage back in time that I could only imagine what the term Holocaust meant. One of the initial sights was of the double barbed wire fence that surrounds the complex. Then we got to the main gate. The gate says “Arbeit Macht Frei” translated means “Work Makes Free”. I knew I was walking into something from the past that will continue to define history for the rest of mankind’s days on this blue planet.
The compound had more building and organization than I anticipated, which made this hell even more devastating in my mind. We read unfathomable numbers of six plus millions of people killed during this time of persecution. Over 20 blocks or building plus from my personal counting, each with stories and the representation of countries affected by the hatred of one man’s beliefs.
Block 11 (eleven) was one of the building that make a person pause in your footsteps and ponder the depth of hatred and the amount of brainwashing of the SS soldier to commit such heinous crimes to humanity. Rooms with stories of individuals being striped drop and walked out to the adjacent courtyard and executed.
The courtyard was just a plain area with cobblestones. The yard was actually quit peaceful in an odd way with sound of birds and a cool breeze. At the end of the court, there was a wall. I had just read about how innocent people were striped down and walked outside – this was the place. The wall was built with sturdy materials and reinforced with different layers. As I approached the decorated wall with flowers and candles, I could see the holes in the wall and spots where the countless amounts of ammunition penetrated to the other layers of reinforcement. This wall is called the “Death Wall” and sheds the true violence that occurred during this time in the world.
I stopped myself from approaching any closer, as I felt like this is sacred ground. I caught myself thinking of what the last thoughts must have been of the thousands upon thousands of human beings that stood right in front of me. After a moment of remembrance and thanking my higher power that I didn’t have to experience such horror. I turned around and saw a brick archway with a steel gate. Was this what they saw right before their last breath. I know the war is over but I had an urgency to get away from the Death Wall.
As we quietly walked away and on to the gravel pathways, I noticed the barbed wire fences had signs of voltage. I cannot imagine being held captive in such an inhumane prison. I read that few escapees every made it to the second fence. Now, I understood the intelligence that went into creating such a place. I wondered how men with such intelligence could cause such gruesome acts and wrongs against life.
We approached one end of the camp and walked through a barbed-wire fence. There was a wooden gallows that was used to hang victims. The hangings were part of the way the German soldiers controlled the people and lowered their desire to escape. This was not the only place in the complex used to terminate life in this manner.
Next to this particular gallows was probably the worst part of this concentration camp. The building was partially buried in the ground with a huge brick chimney. The windows were covered with iron bars and copious amounts of blacken tar frozen in time ran down the side of the cider blocks. The structure was where the SS executed the Jews and other persons via using poisonous gas, Zyklon B a cyanide-based pesticide. The crematorium and gas chamber was definitely an area of silence.
The first small room I walked into showed visible indentations, from bullets, in the wall at average head level. The next room was a large room, possibly capable of holding hundreds of people at one time. The gas chamber has a very sterile and haunting feeling. As I walked through to the adjacent room, the furnaces were in your face. There were steel carts which I could visualize people being placed onto and shoved into the furnaces. The floor had tracks or rails for the multiple furnaces and one set of tracks leading to a hole in the ground. Questions keep coming to mind, what kind of a monster can process people through such torture and then just discard their remains in a hole in ground like ashes from a fireplace.
The Auschwitz Concentration Camp was an example of the travesty humans can impose on other humans. As we travel, we have seen cases of such unrealistic acts by our human race. I hope for future generation, we can learn better ways to communicate, coexist and find peace. As our world is starting to open up without boundaries through technology, higher levels of education and great awareness, I hope we can evolve to the next platform of existence and truly find peace and harmony amongst ourselves as humans.