In honour of International Holocaust Remembrance Day I’ve decided that today is the best day to publish my trip to Auschwitz and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
May 11-17 2015
“The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.” ― George Santayana
This week has been one of the busiest ones I’ve encountered since living abroad.
I decided that I was at the point in my life where I was finally ready to visit Auschwitz, a concentration camp used during the Holocaust. It was not going to be easy but it was something I had to see for myself. That was how Jillian and I found ourselves in Oświęcim, Poland.
I have read countless books, watched many movies and have heard first-hand stories but nothing can prepare you for what lies behind those fences.
One of the first things you see as you walk into the extermination camp is a sign that says arbeit macht frei which means work will set you free. And I have never felt as much anger as I did when I saw people taking selfies in front of that sign. This is not the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa or even Tower Bridge, this is a place where millions of people were killed for their religion. Have. Some. Respect. It’s absolutely despicable, especially if you understand the true meaning of the phrase.
From the moment I stepped onto the grounds I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was breathing in ashes and walking over dead bodies. Although I have no direct connection to anyone who was killed in Auschwitz or the Holocaust I couldn’t shake that feeling off my body. I was stepping on the remains of my family.
I’m heartbroken. The fact that there is so much hate in the world for a specific group of people that this our history.. my heart physically hurts. I felt everything, every single emotion all at once.
I just don’t understand.
This was not easy to write about and perhaps that’s why it took so long to put pen to paper. But it is crucial for EVERYONE to know the horrors that occurred under the Nazi regime. Soon the last of the survivors will have passed on and it is our job to carry their stories to future generations. We need people to understand the past; if they don’t it will also become our future. It’s important that never again actually means never again.
Sidenote: They also need to stop charging visitors to use the bathroom at Auschwitz. You’ve already killed millions of my people but hey.. let’s continue to take away a basic human right.
I’ve been asked what the hardest part of the experience was. For me it was walking through the gas chamber. That was the first time in my life that I found myself physically frozen in a space. My eyes roamed the room imagining what it would’ve been like to spend the last moments of my life trapped in this prison. The amount of people that were murdered in the very space I stood.. I can see the bodies laying all around me. Piles and piles of innocent people killed for no reason. This is where I was when I noticed myself crying.
Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the largest of the Nazi extermination camps. You can tell.
In January 1945 the SS attempted to remove the evidence of the crimes they committed by blowing up buildings such as the crematoria. As I looked on from the tower it was clear they failed. Yes, parts of the camp had been destroyed prior to liberation, but majority of the barracks stood in the condition they were left. I was in a complete disbelief at the size of this prison. They weren’t even finished building it when they tried to cover their tracks.
I hate that this is the history of the world we live.