Oświęcim (Auschwitz) an hour and a half away from Krakow. I remember how I felt and what I was thinking as I walked up to the entrance with mixed feelings. So many people were waiting outside for their tour guide, and just before going in, I saw on my righthand side a restaurant. It is a museum, but somehow it didn't seem right. When going inside, we had to go through a certain amount of security checks, including pasport control.
Walking around the place and realizing this is not the right place reciting the Shema and Memorial prayer, we walked a bit further and made some pictures. Most vistors were inside the stone barracks, which made it a bit impossible to find out what the use of these baracks where. Later on we found out that they first incarserating Germans prisioners and later on functioned as adminstation facilities.
We deside to leave Auschwitz 1 to go to Birkenau and took the bus instead of walking. Arrving at Birkenau walking past a big wooden barrack on the righthand side and many demolished objects, which used to be the Ovens and Gas chambers! I can't remember how long I stood there just looking what was left of it, which killed so many Jews. Some even as soon after arrival. How innocent are the ones who had to wait with all their belongins, men, women and children, sitting in the gras not knowing that they were heading straight into the gas chamber. While others stood in line were whole familie being taken apart,before send to their barracks, forcing whatever they had in their posession to hand over, stripped bear accept from their memories.
We all know these stories, as almost everyone of us has family members being killed or survived Auschwitz or in any of the the other concentration camps. For generations these horrible traumatic stories are been past on from generation upon generation. But coming to Auschwitz, especially Birkenau made it somehow even more real, as I could picture it even more. Turning around to the left there is the single railway track, where trains or rather the ones they used for transporting goods or animals rather than people. This is hard to picture trains coming in and getting people off the trains often by force. It took days in cramped conditions were they could only stand, falling asleep often caused problem and the smell was overwelming as the place were they stood was also the toilet. Dehumanzing is the only way to discribe it!
On the otherside of the railway track where barracks, wooden ones, and I couldn't help but think how cold that must be in the middle of winter in Poland. As we experiences the day before when we were caught in the middle of a snowstorm. There where two barracks I believe that we could excess and the first we went in, on the lefthand side was completely empty and we went in and walked towards the end.
We stood there for a while and looked around us before taking this picture. And at that moment I felt like crying, hiding away somewhere in a corner. This is no life I was thinking, and how could anyone do this to another human being? It doesn't bear thinking what they been through, the humillation, torture, rape, starvation, beaten, set on fire, being gassed, experimented on, shot to death etc, its a long list of the most Evil things done to them for no other reason than being Jewish.
We did the Shema with tears in our eyes and I felt passersby were watching. Before the memorial prayer I looked outside and the first thing a thought " At least they had light coming in " light is so important, especially in dark times like that. The Shema was always special to me, but now more so as we did the Shema there just like so many men and women, while they forgot most prayers they did remember this prayer, and everyday they were reciting the Shema!
The ones who didn't survive the Holocaust are not only victims. Traditions and holidays were honored as must as possible. There was Bravery and staying strong in the most difficult time of their lives and made the best of everyday, helped each other and share whatever they still managed to hold onto, and this include their faith and trust in HaShem.
Entering Birkenau out of free will made me realize the choice they did not have. What it also made me realize is the importance of remembering the Holocaust, as it only takes one person to start again.
Looking out of that small window, people walking past made life feel so surreal.
Auschwitz 2- Birkenau