Snapshot – Auschwitz

So. Here am I. Back again to take on the April A-Z Challenge for a second year. I have pretty much been absent from this wonderful blogging community since last year’s challenge, and while I will explain that absence and what I’ve been up to at a later date, this post is all about the first day of the challenge and we are kicking it off with A … and a rather sombre A it is … Auschwitz.

In August last year I did some travelling around Europe on a G Adventures tour. A big reason for choosing the particular tour I did was because it included a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. I have wanted to visit that place for many years, I studied it’s morbid and tragic history as part of my Masters degree – which had a heavy focus on genocide. I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the name, but for those that aren’t, Auschwitz-Birkenau is one of the many concentration camps set up and run by Nazi Germany. Extermination camp would be a very appropriate description too – as walking around the site you simply cannot escape the horror of the genocide that took place here.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is located about an hours drive away from the city of Krakow. We made the journey out there on a rainy morning, arriving firstly at the main camp of Auschwitz I. You see, this camp was so large it eventually grew to encompass three large camps (Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II – Birkenau and Auschwitz III – Monowitz) along with approximate 40-odd sub-camps. Auschwitz I housed on average 15,000 people. Auschwitz-Birkenau housed approximately 90,000 people. The site of Auschwitz I was originally a Polish barracks before the war but it was commandeered by the Nazis firstly as a prison camp for Poles but progressively to include more and more Jews, Gypsies, Political prisoners, criminals and pretty much anyone else deemed unacceptable. It was a major part of the Nazi’s Final Solution to eradicate the Jewish population.

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The railway line into Auschwitz-Birkenau
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One of the train’s cattle carts – used to transport Jewish prisoners to the camp
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A single rose left on one of the sleeping tiers

 

For most people, it’s the photographs of the railway lines running through the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau that will be most familiar. That particular site is the largest of the three and there are still many of the cramped dormitory buildings where Jews and others were kept. Dirt floors, stone walls, tiers of wooden benches three high which were used as sleeping areas – cramming a dozen or so people together without space to move. As you can imagine, disease would be rampant. But of the sites, it’s Auschwitz I that has most left it’s mark on me. Grabbing a set of headphones and following my local guide through the site – we walk through the entry gate, the words Arbeit Macht Frei (Works Sets You Free) etched on its front. The barbed wire fences surrounding us, we walk through the rows of buildings, each building now telling a different part of the story. We start with the history lesson … maps of the sites, photographs of the Jewish people being shepherded off the cattle trains that brought them to this place, copies of the meticulous records of the Nazi overseers. Then the horror begins … piles of suitcases, still bearing the handwritten names of their owners, who had no idea the fate that awaited them. Piles of pots and pans and cups. A mountain of empty Zyklon B containers, the poison that was used to gas these people to death. And then the room full of human hair. An entire wall of this one room covered floor to ceiling with the hair that was shaved from the victims in the days prior to their extermination. The really horrific thing? This sea of hair is only 5 days worth. The last 5 days of the camp.

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“Works sets you free” over the entrance gate at Auschwitz I

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The rows of buildings
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The empty tins of Zyklon B

 

We venture from there passed buildings where medical experimentation was carried out, into other buildings that were used as a prison within the prison … the personal effects of the Nazi staff still adorn their rooms. It’s like it only happened yesterday, so well preserved is this museum to the Holocaust. Our tour ended where the lives of so many of the 1.1 million people exterminated in Auschwitz did … the gas chamber. I just don’t have the words to describe what walking into that chamber was like … stepping into the darkness, running my hand along the cold walls so as not to trip on the uneven floors. And then that thought … how many hands touched this wall as I now am? How many clawing for air as the gas works it’s way into their lungs? Bodies piling upon bodies trying to reach that small window of light in the ceiling. Stepping out of the gas chamber, into a room containing the furnaces used to burn the dead, and then out into the fresh air … into what was now clear blue sky and a beautiful day. It was an experience that can’t be forgotten. Nor should it be. You see, this place, Auschwitz, is not just a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It is so much more than that. The lesson today is not about Jews or Nazis. This place is a reminder to us all that these horrors, this evil us humans perpetrate against each other, can happen anywhere, at any time. And we must guard against repeating it.

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Inside the gas chamber at Auschwitz I

 

This post makes up part of my contribution for theΒ A to Z Challenge for April 2017

Click HereΒ for a link to all my 2017 challenge posts.

And if you’d like to revisit my 2016 Challenge post for “A”, here’s the link:Β Snapshot – Angkor Thom

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56 thoughts on “Snapshot – Auschwitz”

  1. Wow! It is SO great to see you back here!!! πŸ˜ƒ I wondered where you went. And here you come back with a bang, with a fantastic post! Welcome back, and looking forward to reading future posts about what you have been up to. I hope you are well. 😊🌹

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello my friend! Thank you so much πŸ’ It’s so wonderful to be back! I missed so many of the amazing people I connected with … Yourself included! I have a lot of catching up to do! I hope you’ve been well πŸ˜€

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      1. I am so amazed when great people return to the blogosphere, yourself included. πŸ˜ƒ I have had my ups and downs, but have gotten further and further away from the narcissist, luckily. I even started dating, a little bit, recently! If you are interested in those posts😜, you can find them easiest by scrolling down a bit on my page, to check the “feed” of latest posts, a bit further down. They are also in a category on the right called “Reports from the dating jungle” I think.. and some in “journal” category aswell, perhaps. πŸ˜ƒ I think since you have been away for a while, perhaps there are also some “new” posts in “Photography” category that you might like. Sorry for advertising my page like crazy to you, haha. It is just that I missed your comments a lot. 😊🌹

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      2. Haha! No worries at all … advertise away! I’ve just been browsing your blog and have seen so many changes. The photography section is great, nice addition. And I just rad about “Family Man”! I’ve so glad you’ve been moving further away from the narcissist. I remember how much of a battle that was at times and I always knew you’d be strong enough to break away. Good for you!! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for believing in me. 😁 At times back then, I thought I’d never break away, and that I’d be trapped forever. I guess we as humans tend to always find ways out eventually, in most cases. The human soul hates being locked in any kind of emotional prison.. πŸ™‚ I am glad I did get out, cause no matter what future I have now, I don’t think there could be one worse than a future with the narcissist. I dodged a bullet, it could have been so much worse, if I would have stayed etc.. πŸ˜„πŸŒΉ

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  2. Welcome back, Kim! I look forward to more of your posts.
    As for this one, thanks for the photos and the words. I doubt that I will ever make it to Auschwitz, but this post certainly carried the impact of it. And I agree that the biggest lesson of all is that we need to remember just how cruel people can be to those they deem “different” or “inferior” and constantly guard against it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Ann! It’s great to be back in the company of so many wonderful writers, such as yourself. I’m glad this post was able to convey a little of what it was like to visit such a place. I thought it a rather timely reminder, given the current state of the world, of how far people can go when they lose their heads to prejudice and hatred.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks you so much! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you get the opportunity to see Poland this year. I’ll have a couple more posts about Poland coming up later in the challenge too.

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  3. I’ve never been to Auschwitz, but I can feel just how emotional this was for you in your post. What a great entry to start off this challenge with, Kim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It’s always rewarding when you manage to convey something of the emotion of a place to another. I shall definitely be dropping by to check out your A-Z posts πŸ™‚

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  4. Hi Kim, glad you’re back as I loved all your posts last year. This is such an elequant post which really passes on the feel of what it must be like to walk through a place that witnessed such atrocities and heartbreak – thank you for sharing your experience.
    Days of Fun

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  5. Glad to see you decided to join πŸ™‚

    I recently read a post by another blogger who’d also visited Auschwitz. I think it’s so important to remember this horrific part of history both in honor of the memory of lives lost and to prevent it from happening again. I don’t think I could ever go, I don’t think I’d be able to handle it. I admire you for going. Thank you for sharing such a moving post.

    Niki Meadows
    Worthiness & Authenticity Coach| Inspirational Blogger | Kindness Ambassador

    A to Z Challenge Post
    2017 Kindness Challenge

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Niki. I’m glad I decided to join too, even though I’m so far behind in terms of preparation this year. You’re right about Auschwitz being difficult to visit. One of my travel companions in particular had to remove his headphones mid-way through and avoided the room with personal items of the victims. I’m heading over to check out your A post now – looking forward to seeing what you come up with this year! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel you there! I’m just winging it this year. Last year I was very well prepared. This year it’s going to be more stream of consciousness style of writing. I’m just going to go with the flow because I have a lot going on but I love connecting with other bloggers and this is a great way to do so.

        I can’t even imagine. I haven’t even made it through Schindler’s List…no way I could do that in person.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tamara. I’m glad to hear your relatives managed to escape in time, the alternative would be unimaginable. It is indeed a sad post but as you say, it’s important that we don’t shy away from confronting the horrors of the past.

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  6. Great and brave post, Kim. Quite a way to start the series off. I have been eyeing a visit to Poland and Auswitch during the time I am in Belgium later this spring. While this is a must-see site, I have mixed feelings about visiting, despite the many holocaust museums and war-related sites I have visited.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Liesbet. It’s not an easy place to visit, it is very confronting. And if you get a guide like I had, the emotion in her voice makes it even more difficult. Having said that, I’m glad I went. I think I had to take the opportunity while I was there because I may never get the chance to return & didn’t want to regret anything later. Even if you ultimately decide not to go, Poland has plenty of other options. Both Warsaw & KrakΓ³w are great cities.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good to see you, Kim. If photos can tell real tales of the horror within, those photos would say a lot. Sometimes, I wonder how humanity becomes so low in humanness to do things that are beyond despicable.

    I am attaching a link to my video here. Please support me by watching and possibly subscribing. Thank you. Jacqueline

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jacqueline. You’re absolutely correct, it baffles me how we can so easily act in hatred towards others. I wonder what happened to the people who commit such unspeakable acts to rob them of their humanity so totally.
      I use the WordPress app usually and your link isn’t clickable here but I shall check it out when next I logon via PC.

      Liked by 1 person

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