Auschwitz-A Very Moving Day

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End Nov 20, 2008

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Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Sunday, October 5, 2008

This morning on the way to Warsaw we stopped off at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Wasn't sure how I would feel about it-or how upsetting it would be.

There is actually more than one camp. The two main ones are Auschwitz and another called Birkenau that is 3 Kms away but was mainly the accommodation and labour camp. We stopped at Auschwitz first. Looked a lot different to what I thought it would-I think movies influence your perception more than you think. We met up with our guide at the visitor centre and he came across as a very compassionate person. They issue you with a 'whispering guide' and headphones. This is so he can talk quietly and you can hear him. They have a kind of 'quiet' policy around the camp out of respect to the dead. 

The camp looked quite different to what I thought it would. The gate at the entrance had a mocking sign over it that the Nazis had put up saying (in German) 'work will set you free'. The buildings were mainly brick with separate men's and woman's accommodation. One building, which I instantly thought must be the notorious gas chamber because of all it's chimneys, turned out to in fact be the Kitchen block. The gas chamber was in fact underground with only one chimney. Less obvious but in some ways worse for that. Was very emotional seeing the ovens. Walking around the camp there was the odd rose here and there placed in the barbed wire fence which I think was one of the most moving and touching parts-a reminder that 60 years after there are still people affected by this terrible event.

Some of the buildings had exhibitions which were very moving-such as a glass display full of 2,000 suitcases with their owner's names on them. All died in the gas chambers. And that was just one transportation. It was sad hearing about the little children in particular. Many died in horrible circumstances and many were experimented on.

Saw the gallows they built at the camp to hang the camp commandant at the end of the war. Seemed rather fitting that he died where he killed so many.

At the second camp, Birkenau, the first view you have is of the main building with the railway tracks going straight through and up the middle of the camp. That was a very poignant and moving experience, being that for some that was their last stop before they were killed and I guess the train tracks were so symbolic of that.

A large part of the second camp was destroyed by the Nazis as most of the buildings here were wooden. There are still some accommodation buildings that are left intact with their bunk beds. It must have been terrible living conditions-especially in winter.

Was very surprised at the large number of Poles who died there-I hadn't realised it was so many-or that Stalin killed so many Poles after the war.
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