“The one that does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”
… George Santayana.
Inscription at the entry to one of the Block Houses that once housed thousands of victims of Nazi atrocities… This is Auschwitz -Birkenau, Poland, 1940 -1945
Today is seared in our minds forever. And we hope future generations will visit this place of inhumanity to experience this history and never forget. The sign over the gate promises “Work will set you free”.
Tears are difficult to contain, sickened by the sights and accounts of this very black period in history. Walking through the gates at Auschwitz you enter a world of such evil that one cannot begin to understand! The largest of many ‘Death Camps’ throughout Europe where millions were sent to their death… Genocide!!
The stench of death, decay and deplorable conditions, one cannot imagine… the torture, suffering and the staggering toll on those who lived and died in this hell hole… and the few that survived. Men women and children… Nobody was above this evil!!! How could any human inflict such pain, misery and suffering to another?
The scale of this carnage is incomprehensible …we take time in a quiet corner at Birkenau, called ‘Auschwitz 2’, to contemplate the rubble of the enormous crematorium, one of five. ‘Auschwitz 2’ was built to increase the capacity to rid Europe of the Nazis’ targeted groups, 25 times larger than ‘Auschwitz 1’, and still thousands were burned in mass graves because of the inability to slaughter fast enough. The ashes are strewn all around us.
Despite the efforts of the Nazi’s to destroy the evidence of their crimes as the end of the war became inevitable, much of the camp is as it was.. But even among the rubble of the gas chambers and incinerators there is no mistaking what took place here!!
We are both feeling the heat on this hot late summer day having walked for hours. Our thirst is such a small inconvenience compared to the suffering experienced here in the past!! Watching the movies… “Schindler’s List” Reading the books….” Night” by “Ellie Wiesel” , does not begin to capture the horror of this place as compared to when you are actually standing where it happened!!
On display: 2 tons of human hair, personal and treasured possessions, thousands of shoes, eyeglasses, prosthesis’, train tickets of those who had been convinced to buy their tickets to their own slaughter! It would be easy to be persuaded that the lucky ones may have been those that died in the rail cars during transportation!!! Ironically all these items originally stored in the facilities called “Canada Warehouse”, so called because Canada was seen at the time to be ‘the land of plenty’!
The day has passed… We have endured hours of this nightmare and depart exhausted and drained, reeling at the sights and trying to absorb what was. It was an honour and a gift to acknowledge and pay respect to those that lived and perished here. This is not a museum it is a memorial.
We leave as we arrived along those rail tracks, through those infamous gates… by the railcar that bears testament to the millions that arrived to this hell!! We bow our heads and reflect for those that never had the option. Collecting a treasure… a stone from the tracks, to place alongside the pebbles from ‘D Day’ beaches Juno and Omaha in France.
How could this have happened!!! … Can we indeed remember history and not live through it again?
Our visit to Poland was brief but very powerful, a place to return later, where the people were welcoming and friendly. A journey is so influenced by the weather, driving through the cold and wet in the Czech Republic we know we have not done it justice. Visiting magnificent old towns of Olomouc and Mikulov … with cobbled stone streets and centuries old palaces and churches… if only the sun had been shining.
It was here we met a “real” live Polish celebrity!! The star and runner up to the Polish version of ‘Dancing With The Stars’. Tall handsome model, 20 something Pawel Stalinski and his stunningly beautiful partner Charlotte stopped by to admire Pumper and our window ornament Piglet :) on their way to Italy on a great adventure. Chance meetings like this when you are having challenging moments can restore faith. Pawel and Charlotte ooze the kind of joy and enthusiasm that could restore humanity worldwide!! With Piglet donated to their European adventure we exchange waves and smiles and head down the same road… at different speeds!!!
Peace and love… “Remembering”.