Evil and goodness rest within us all and this is a reminder of what the human soul is capable of in its worst manifestation.
08.07.2009 - 08.07.2009
I cannot for a second convey the exact emotions I went through during this experience. It is a personal experience that all should go through to really comprehend the evil that humans are all capable of. It would be easy to say this is only a German or rather Nazis thing but it is and has been a reality in all cultures around the world. The only difference is that the Nazis were very efficient.
Walking into Auschwitz, it has the appearance of a dated military compound with barracks made of red brick set in rows along tree lined streets. What gives it away is the double, barbed-wired fencing that surrounds the compound and yes, the entrance with the overhead sign of, "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work will make one free) is there to see. The irony is that those that did not die in the gas chambers immeadiately were worked to death in the surrounding factories or in the expansion of the camp. Thus, death was the only means to freedom. So, yes, work did set one free in this camp.
The exhibits are stark and disturbing. One of the barracks contains exhibits of rooms filled with suitcases or shoes or prosthetics or piles of human hair. All of these things and other items were taken and recycled by the Nazis for use by the military or German citizenry. The hair was the most disturbing for me.
The exhibit of this was a windowed room about 15 ft square and it was filled with the hair of prisoners found in the warehouses when the Russian army liberated the camp. Apparently, all new arrivals had there head shaved. If the hair was long enough then it was taken to be used in the making of cloth and felt. Needless to say most of the hair that was long enough was from women. Further, it was confirmed through chemical forensics that much of the hair contained Zyklon B, which was the type of cyanide gas used in the gas chambers. This means that the corpses had their heads shaved after being killed in the chambers, as well.
Birkenau was even more disturbing just by virtue of the size. It was built to house 100,000 prisoners. Most of the buildings are gone but much of the perimeter fencing, rail entrance and main guardhouse are there. There are restoration of some of the sanitation buildings and bunkhouses present for visitors to comprehend the conditions of this camp. Entering the bunkhouse there is a series of three-tiered bunks lining the length of the building with a brick coal-burning stove at each end. It was at this point that I lost it. I began to cry and had to turn my back away from the group. I could only imagine the cold, horrid conditions all of those people had to endure and which in most cases was the last memory in their lives. Such misery.....
Sorry to be so graphic and depressing but this was my experience.