Generally, when I return home from a weekend of travel, I am overwhelmed with a mixture of euphoria and enlightenment. Last weekend, however was a little different. Throughout the course of my experience here, I have done and seen many things I never in a million years imagined I would do. Like go to Morocco and camp in the Sahara Desert, for example. Or bathe in a Hungarian bath house in Budapest. Mostly, I never in a million years thought I would visit Auschwitz Concentration Camp. But that’s exactly what I did last weekend in Poland.
When you take a trip centered around visiting one of the world’s most horrific sites of human genocide, it’s hard to return feeling like you’re on top of the world. Rather, it was a weekend filled with intense feelings of sorrow, disgust, and anger. Walking through the camp was like being trapped inside a nightmare. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the terrible things that had happened in the exact spots where I was walking and standing only decades ago.
What you have seen, read and learned over the years is, of course, only part of the story. Seeing in real life the pictures, which were more like mug shots, of the men, women and children that arrived to the camp along with piles of shoes, eye glasses, suitcases, and even hair that had been shaved off by the Nazis was bone chilling. Walking through the dingy basements of the buildings and viewing the tiny cement “standing cells” where four prisoners were kept at a time and left to either suffocate or starve to death made me feel sick to my stomach. Looking at the exact tool that was used to tattoo the prisoners upon arrival, and then imagining how brainwashed a person has to become before forgetting their own name and replacing it with a tattoo was something I couldn’t even grasp. The worst, however, was standing inside the same gas chamber where thousands of innocent people were forced to strip naked, and then poisoned to death. It was absolutely horrifying.
Of course, aside from Auschwitz, I very much enjoyed my time in Krakow. It really is a beautiful city, and we found the people to be extremely friendly and open to travelers. Visiting Auschwitz was heavy, to say the least. But sometimes gaining a little perspective on your life and the world comes in a hard pill to swallow.
I took the following pictures during my visit to the camp. Please view at your own discretion.