• DudleySU

Auschwitz Reflection

Updated: Jan 24, 2019


Upon being asked to partake in the trip to Auschwitz I already had a preconceived idea of how the camp had changed from during the Second World War to 70 years on down the line, from this knowledge alone I could quite easily determine – or what I thought I could determine – the reaction and emotional response I would get in standing in an area that was used for mass genocide of the Jewish race.


From taking History in high school I had an in depth understanding of what had taken place in countries under Nazi control, and why Hitler had resorted to the use of Death Camps and wasn’t surprised by the horrific events that were brought to the groups’ attention that had unfolded at Auschwitz. I had raised the point that the camp had been transformed into a museum and quite frankly a tourist attraction, with an ice cream van located at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau and stands selling sweets and souvenirs.


To me this is completely disrespectful to those whose lives that were taken so horrifically there and encourages remembrance in way that I feel doesn’t live up the scale of the atrocities. I had concluded in my mind that with these things occurring that it would withdraw from the emotional experiences and completely take away from the atmosphere of solidarity at the camp.


When the time came and I had arrived in Krakow I immediately understood exactly where I was, the day was cold, gloomy and wet, and while walking around camp it extremely enhanced the amount of sympathy you gave to the people who were forced to withstand the winter without a shed of clothes on their bodies, while they were forced in line feeling the full force of not only the abuse of the Nazi’s but the elements as well. While after a single day I was ready to cave with my fingers numb and my skin blue, I persevered with the knowledge id be leaving soon enough while for those unfortunate victims, they’d have no hopes of escape, which remains with me until this very day.


Even though the first half of the day resides to be “a tour” it certainly achieved in demonstrating the scale of the masses that were situated in the camp with the exhibition of the human hair, the number of glasses and pots and pans that belonged to the prisoners; combined with the identity photos this really aided in picturing millions of Jews individually which sparked an emotional response from me, as its impossible to imagine 6 million Jews collectively as opposed to the one person on the wall, and picturing her/his/their story separately.


Birkenau was certainly the pinnacle of the day, as even though you were guided through the experience it felt as though it was completely real – the sheer size of the place and the silence considering the amount of people that joined us in the experience was extremely eerie. No matter where your eyes were drawn to you began to realise you couldn’t see an end to the fences or fields. The gas chambers, the railway tracks and the bunkers made everyone break down as this solidifies that it’ not just a place in a text book you’re forced to read about in text books, the one of two places that made me cry was seeing the size of the train wagons. I couldn’t comprehend how 100 people fitted inside such a confined space, and how they were completely oblivious to the fact that when they were finally released it would only be a losing battle until the Nazi’s finally murdered them all. Finally the memorial at the very end was the place that drew the greatest amount of upset.


Seeing the pictures of the people at their happiest before the monstrosities occurred was the best tribute to any victim of murder, it humanised them and you saw them as not just another Jew or a number out of the 6 million but as a person, and that is what I wasn’t expecting to see.


To summarise the entire experience, I knew I would cry, be highly sympathetic and understanding, however I didn’t expect to affected in the way that I was. It was almost like I felt nothing and was numb for an aspect of the day up until a certain point when it finally hit me that this it was all real, I never experienced the real Birkenau but the tribute to those who did was on a scale I never thought possible, and that’s what made it real for me.Upon being asked to partake in the trip to Auschwitz I already had a preconceived idea of how the camp had changed from during the Second World War to 70 years on down the line, from this knowledge alone I could quite easily determine – or what I thought I could determine – the reaction and emotional response I would get in standing in an area that was used for mass genocide of the Jewish race.


From taking History in high school I had an in depth understanding of what had taken place in countries under Nazi control, and why Hitler had resorted to the use of Death Camps and wasn’t surprised by the horrific events that were brought to the groups’ attention that had unfolded at Auschwitz. I had raised the point that the camp had been transformed into a museum and quite frankly a tourist attraction, with an ice cream van located at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau and stands selling sweets and souvenirs. To me this is completely disrespectful to those whose lives that were taken so horrifically there and encourages remembrance in way that I feel doesn’t live up the scale of the atrocities.


I had concluded in my mind that with these things occurring that it would withdraw from the emotional experiences and completely take away from the atmosphere of solidarity at the camp. When the time came and I had arrived in Krakow I immediately understood exactly where I was, the day was cold, gloomy and wet, and while walking around camp it extremely enhanced the amount of sympathy you gave to the people who were forced to withstand the winter without a shed of clothes on their bodies, while they were forced in line feeling the full force of not only the abuse of the Nazi’s but the elements as well.


While after a single day I was ready to cave with my fingers numb and my skin blue, I persevered with the knowledge id be leaving soon enough while for those unfortunate victims, they’d have no hopes of escape, which remains with me until this very day. Even though the first half of the day resides to be “a tour” it certainly achieved in demonstrating the scale of the masses that were situated in the camp with the exhibition of the human hair, the number of glasses and pots and pans that belonged to the prisoners; combined with the identity photos this really aided in picturing millions of Jews individually which sparked an emotional response from me, as its impossible to imagine 6 million Jews collectively as opposed to the one person on the wall, and picturing her/his/their story separately.


Birkenau was certainly the pinnacle of the day, as even though you were guided through the experience it felt as though it was completely real – the sheer size of the place and the silence considering the amount of people that joined us in the experience was extremely eerie. No matter where your eyes were drawn to you began to realise you couldn’t see an end to the fences or fields. The gas chambers, the railway tracks and the bunkers made everyone break down as this solidifies that it’ not just a place in a text book you’re forced to read about in text books, the one of two places that made me cry was seeing the size of the train wagons. I couldn’t comprehend how 100 people fitted inside such a confined space, and how they were completely oblivious to the fact that when they were finally released it would only be a losing battle until the Nazi’s finally murdered them all.


Finally the memorial at the very end was the place that drew the greatest amount of upset. Seeing the pictures of the people at their happiest before the monstrosities occurred was the best tribute to any victim of murder, it humanised them and you saw them as not just another Jew or a number out of the 6 million but as a person, and that is what I wasn’t expecting to see. To summarise the entire experience, I knew I would cry, be highly sympathetic and understanding, however I didn’t expect to affected in the way that I was. It was almost like I felt nothing and was numb for an aspect of the day up until a certain point when it finally hit me that this it was all real, I never experienced the real Birkenau but the tribute to those who did was on a scale I never thought possible, and that’s what made it real for me.


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