Kraków & Auschwitz

Well there has been quite a lot happening since I last posted a blog; it’s only been 16 days but it has seemed like weeks! It just goes to show that I do actually enjoy writing online and I have missed it. I kept putting it and and somewhat procrastinating… so I have finally sat down and I am about to unleash a whole new life which I have created for myself.

The title you might be familiar with because hidden deep inside my headline is a Polish city – Yes, you’ve cracked my MI5 like code – It is of course, Kraków.

I visited with my Dad and Julie a couple of weekends ago. It was brilliant. Our predominant aim was to go and visit the post-traumatic scenes on Auschwitz and Auschwitz 2, less commonly know as Birkenau.

It’s something I had personally learned in school and I’m sure it is embedded in more syllabus today, but to actually go there and feel the chilling environment for yourself is a whole different kettle of fish.

We were led around the two concentration camps by a very short Polish woman. Her knowledgeable was incredible. It’s something you could learn over time, with practice and determination – But the way she described some of the atrocities and happenings which went on all those years ago was unexplainably chilling. It’s like the Holocaust has happened last week and I could see the sadness in her eyes.

She didn’t mention anything about her family being controlled by Nazi-occupied Poland but I think there was a good chance this could have been factual, given the way she conducted herself during our tour, her almost life-like personal experiences and the emotion she conveyed through the medium of speech.

The iconic gates from the entrance to Auschwitz – This is where our tour started and is also the point where hundreds of thousands walked through and never returned alive

‘Arbeit Macht Frei’

Probably the most ironic statement I now believe I had ever read in my life. It’s a German translation enforced by Hitler and Hess throughout the concentration camps which literally translates to ‘Work means freedom’ – I don’t really need to go into detail here but this to me is the biggest contradiction in terms.

Throughout the tour we were constantly reminded of the punishment that people would suffer from right beneath our own eyes. Jews, Poles, Gypsies, Homosexuals would be beaten, shot, tortured, starved, experimented on and even worked to death. There is just far too much for me to explain on a singular blog and it’s almost emotional now just writing about this.

We walked from building to building with our guide, taking in the atmosphere, imagining what it would have been like to be here and seeing the aftermath of a 70-year old crime of genocide; walking in silence certainly exacerbated the feeling of sadness – Something I am sure and hope all of the other tourists felt.

Some of the buildings were used as offices for the tours, some were preserved from the Holocaust and others were turned into museums and memorials which is what we were there for. The most horrific sight for Dad, Julie and I was the building which contained the personal belongings from the people who had been murdered.

One room was split down the middle by a full-length glass partition. One side was where we could walk around in our guide groups and the other was displaying people’s items post-murder. This room was the worst by far. After these people had been killed – They would be stripped of anything that was of any value to the German’s – Jewellery, clothes, watches and even hair. To the left of us as we entered said room was the biggest most extraordinary mound of hair I have ever seen. I would say it was probably big enough to fill 3-400 bath tubs. That’s the only thing that has come to my mind right now – I am sure you are aware this blog is more serious than most – I would like to show some respect to these people during my blog post.

The next room was shoes – Women and children were shot dead or sent to the gas chambers once they were ‘selected’ if they could perform duties in the concentration camps or not. This was down to not being fit enough, old enough or even willing to work. Once a selection for each individual had been made – Which was about 75% in terms of amount of people being killed after being brought in from the outside villages and towns – They would be killed using various different methods.

The room was filled with shoes. Black, brown, grey… and little red ones. Probably belonging to a little girl between the age of 4 and 5.

Horrific. It’s something you have to see for yourself. But it made me want to cry.

The front of Auschwitz 2 or ‘Birkenau’. Desolate. Cold. Chilling. Sad. Unbelievable.

I think I could write all day about my experience here, but I don’t want to. For no other reason than it would make me more sad probably you too, but also because it’s a place I believe you should all visit yourself.

People who are still alive today fought for the liberation of millions of people during this period in the 1940’s, their bravery and courage enabled us to lead the lives we live today. The ones who inevitably sacrificed their lives to give us ours will never be forgotten, to even think about what they went through is painful. How can the World of created such a monster? Who knows. No one ever will.

It’s certainly a lesson to our future generations. Scarily enough, it may even be a warning. This could happen again. That’s the most frightening part in my eyes.

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