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Auschwitz

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.

Auschwitz7I 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.

Auschwitz6

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.

Auschwitz8The 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.

Hungarian Holocaust Memorial:  Garden of the Just - The leaves are engraved with the names of the victims.

Hungarian Holocaust Memorial: Garden of the Just – The leaves are engraved with the names of the victims.

6 Comments
  1. Oh, my goodness. So haunting. I just finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, for a research paper I wrote. He was a practicing psychologist before entering the concentration camps, and he made it his mission to study people while imprisoned in order to gain an understanding of how people can endure such horrors.

    It was a beautifully written memoir and gave tremendous insight to the human psyche and will to live. If you happen to have the chance to read it, I think you would enjoy.

    Thanks so much for sharing this experience,
    Andrea

    • Hey Andrea,

      Rachel and I have been able to explore some wonderful places on our travels. Going to Auschwitz was an experience that allowed us to open our eyes and have a different respect for life and our freedom. We both wanted to pay our respects. However, I personally did not think I would have been affected in such a way, it was haunting.

      I will download “Man’s Search for Meaning” and add it to the list of books we are reading. Thank you for the recommendation, it sounds like another learning opportunity.

      Steve

  2. All of your posts have brought a smile, happiness, excitement until now. I know that feeling of reverence when visiting a place of great sadness (Pearl Harbor)! But we should always remember to never let this happen again! Travel safe!

    • Hey Lin,

      When we started this journey, I wanted to remain as positive as I could with everything I thought we would experience. While we wander from place to place with the idea of seeing the tourist spots, the hidden treasures of other travelers, and trying to develop new global friendships. We also know that beneath the sugar coating of some of the beautiful places there is a history that can not be forgotten. I believe knowing that “feel of reverence” makes the sweetness of the sugar coating all that much better for everyone.

      I always appreciate your comments and together with remembrance we will continue to be able to travel safe. Hugs

      Steve

  3. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. This one brought tears to my eyes! We must never forget that such evil still exists. And still people deny this happened . . . Safe travels and keep writing!

    • Hey Sandy,

      I have to say this was one of the most emotional places we have been thus far. We arrived early enough and had the grounds to our selves except for a handful of other visitors. As we were leaving, bus loads of people were showing up. We had time to really take in the depths of the situation and pause for true moments of the impact on races and countries involved.

      I can’t understand how people could deny what happened with so much evidence and witnesses. It’s their right and freedom to believe as they wish. Anyway you want to look at Auschwitz and other concentration camps, let us as human beings remember to show compassion and kindness in our daily lives and try to respect each other.

      We will continue to travel safe and the words will continue to flow! 😀

      Steve

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