How Very Sad..

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of Poland  ,
Friday, June 9, 2006

Sombre greetings from Aushwitz - Birkenau.

It's easy to forget as you wander Krakow's picture postcard streets that only sixty years ago this area of Poland saw some of the worst inhumanities of the Second World War if not in the entire history of mankind. Oswiecim, an hour to the west of Krakow, is better known to its countless visitors each year as what the occupying Nazis called it, Auschwitz, a name synonymous with the Holocaust and Hitler's final solution.

We, like everyone else were profoundly affected by the museum, housed in some of the original blocks of the first camp in the complex - Aushwitz 1. But the real shock for us came three kilometres away at the Birkenau camp. The scale of the place is as incomprehensible as the events that it witnessed: around one-and-a-half million people, most of them Jews, died at Auschwitz. Deportees arriving at the camp had no idea what awaited them. For the 80 to 90 percent deemed unfit for use it was immediate death in the gas chambers. Those deemed fit for use were forced to live in unimaginably horrific conditions, where only the strongest survived.

You can see in the black and white shot I've included, the officer that made the decision on who lived to work another day and who died immediately. If you look at the shadows you can see his arm extended and his thumb pointing to the right, the gas chambers. To this day no one knows how each officer came to his decision and it's considered they just acted on a whim.

Truly a moving experience and one that should be experienced first hand. No text, pictures, documentaries can do the scale of the murder or camps justice.

If I could take a moment to reflect on our experience of Poland as a whole. Both Kat and I absolutely loved Poland. We loved everyplace we visited but we especially enjoyed the company of the Poles themselves. Nothing was ever to much trouble, everyone we stopped and asked for help on one thing or another went out of their way to assist or lacking that would find someone else that could. It's the sort of country you leave with a smile on your face looking forward to one day visiting again. The fact that their country and way of life faced annihilation firstly by the Nazis and then by the Soviets only makes them that much more remarkable.

Polska, we love you.

Next pod, High Tatras - Slovakia.


Nath and Kat.
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