Auschwitz – Birkenau & the past few days

Trip Start Feb 23, 2010
Trip End Jun 21, 2010

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Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hello all,

Today was a pretty depressing day, as we went to Auschwitz – Birkenau, but before I get into that I'll let you know what’s been going on around here the past couple of days. As I told you in the last entry, you all know about the tragedy that has happened here in Poland last week. Well on Wednesday they announced that the president and his wife were going to be buried in Wawel Castle here in Krakow. Well you know how I said last time that it’s been pretty quiet and somber around here? Yeah, it has officially gotten crazy. This caused a huge uproar and there has been a protest going on even since. Most everyone is completely against this because only former Kings and very famous, important figures are buried here. They feel that this President was no more special than any other, in fact a lot of people did not even like him as president. They don’t feel he is worthy enough of being buried here, and on top of that, his wife is being buried with him. Even the King’s wives weren’t worthy enough of being buried in the castle. I’m going to have to agree though, it doesn’t make sense. But to say the least, it has been pretty crazy here the last few days.

Then yesterday, Friday, Andrea and I went to a town called Krosno for the day. There was some kind of English conference going on that Barbra had to attend, so we went with her. One of the students from the university gave us a tour of town for a few hours, and then we were able to meet another UNI student who is there!! It was soo nice just to talk to someone from home for a while! It was a long, exhausting day, to say the least, but it was good to get out of Krakow for a day again.

So today we went to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. I don’t even know where to begin in describing this place. I had chills as soon as I stepped foot here. Before today, I honestly don’t think I ever brought myself to believing that something soo awful had really happened. These camps were just massive and held thousands and thousands of prisoners. When they were being brought here they were told that they were going to labor camps where they would have a much better life. When they arrived they were immediately sorted into two groups – those who could work and those who couldn’t. This was based on their age and physical ability. Those who could work were sent off to the barracks and those who couldn’t were sent straight to the crematorium and murdered. Those that did stay to work never survived more than a few months. Most died of either starvation, being over-worked, or simply killed for no reason.

I think the hardest thing about today was seeing the rooms full of the prisoners’ actual possessions. There were rooms FULL of all their shoes, eye glasses, hair brushes, clothes (not to mention the collection of baby clothes from all the infants they murdered), pots and pans, luggage, personal possessions, and, worst of all, the room full of all the women’s hair they cut off and used as raw material for textiles. Seeing these things gave a chill down my spine and sunk my heart. It sure proves just how realistic this was, that something soo horrible actually happened, and I was there.

There are soo many stories the guide told us that I still have a hard time grasping. All the different ways the prisoners were tortured and killed is just unthinkable to me. We saw the crematoriums, the starvation rooms, and the "standing" rooms. The standing rooms consisted of about a 3 foot by 3 foot cement room with a little opening at the bottom to get in and out. Here they would squeeze about 4 people in where they would stand for days, even weeks, that is if they lasted that long. There are other places where they tortured and killed the prisoners that I have some pictures of and will describe them on there. It’s just soo hard to describe this place in words. It’s something that is worth seeing if you are in this area, but definitely one of the hardest things you will ever see. We weren’t able to take pictures inside but I still have plenty from outside, so you’ll have to check them out.

So tomorrow is the funeral for the President and we plan to at least attempt to see it. It should be interesting to see how people handle it with all the opposition still going on.

Oh, by the way, for the first time in over a week it did not rain today! The sun even came out for a while! I thought I was never going to see it again, let’s just hope it stays this way now…

Until next time,

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