Trip Start May 12, 2007
Trip End May 27, 2007

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Flag of Poland  ,
Friday, May 18, 2007

After Jasna Gora, we arrived at BIRKENAU, (Auschwitz 2) and only had 20 minutes to walk around. A watch tower and the railroad tracks that the prisoners arrived on were the first things that came into sight. Upon entering, barbed wire fences separated the area in 2 sections and were on either side of the tracks. The prisoner's barracks were to the right of the tracks. Signs tell the history and explain the set-up of the camp near the barracks. This was the part we saw. Everyone was pretty quiet here except for a woman in our group (nicknamed interrupter) who yelled for people to move so she could get a picture inside the barracks! There always seems to be one in every bunch.
We then went over to Auschwitz Museum where Tunde said we could have as much time as we wanted/needed here; even though we were given a guided tour. What added to this experience was our female guide had an uncle that was actually a  prisoner here and was starved to death for helping a Jewish man by the Nazi's. I would think it would be difficult to do tours but she was very informative. At the entrance was a gate with "Work makes you free" above it in German with an electric fence surrounding the area. Touching these fences meant instant death. An unsettling feeling came over me as she explained the arrival of prisoners and how they thought they were going to experience a "better" life. Even though every room we went to was crowded, it was still a somber experience most of us.
  The many things I saw here were:
- an original building with a starvation cell, a dark cell and standing cells with only room for one person and a washroom for women to change
- another building with rooms that held different personal belongings behind glass cases:
   one filled with human hair strands, including a smaller case that held 2 braided ponytails
         that was going to be used to make uniforms   
    a case in the next room held baby shoes and a doll, another with baby clothes
    another room filled with nothing but shoes, another filled with artificial legs
    one with hair brushes, combs and shaving accessories
    one room held the prisoners suitcases with their names visible on them   

As I looked into these glass windows through the different rooms, I thought to myself; I wonder what the person looked like who wore that female black shoe? whose artificial leg? what little girl did that doll belong to?

Back outside, we were shown the Wall of Death where people were shot. Flowers lay there as a memorial. Then we were led to an area where hangings took place with pictures of those people. We also saw where 1st commandant Rudolf Hoss was hung and had his home right next to one of the buildings where all this took place! The gas chamber was last and everyone was quiet (out of respect) walking through it. It is of course, one of those places you have to visit. Those Polish jokes don't seem funny anymore.

In Krakow for 2 nights, our included hotel meal at the Holiday Inn Express was not the best with the beef being very tough. The garlic eggplant wasn't bad though but the dessert of apple strudel made up for the meal. We sat with the Filipino couples who were very nice. We walked a bit then called it a night.
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