“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana
Desolate, empty and haunting – Auschwitz concentration camp is not exactly the kind of place you want visit. However, I think its so important to and I could not write about my trip to Poland without mentioning my day trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I studied about the Holocaust at University in my Political Philosophy classes and like most of you, have watched Schindler’s List and read Aren Frank’s diary. I thought i understood the Holocaust – but visiting this place in person gave me an entirely different perspective. Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp in Europe.
I visited the camp on a day trip from Krakow, Poland on a DIY tour. We took the train to a small town named Oswiecim (the German called the town Auschwitz), on the outskirts of Krakow. We started by walking over to the original camp of Auschwitz. Auschwitz was the first part of the camp to be used and the other two, (Birkenau and Monowitz) were built subsequently. Monowitz was another camp but was destroyed by the Nazis to cover the up their crimes.
Warning: Some of the content that follows may be disturbing.
The entrance gate below has a sign above it that reads Arbeit Macht Frei (work will make you free). The prisoners who arrived here first had high hopes of a ‘promised land’ where they were told that they were coming to work, to support their families during wartime. This set the tone slowly for what i was about to experience.
The most horrendous, chilling part of the tour were the torture chambers and the Black Wall along which victims were shot to death. I was also emotional in the museum, in which we entered a room containing the personal items of the Jewish people – shoes, eyeglasses, women’s hair, suitcases etc.
PLAN YOUR VISIT:
Located on the outskirts of Oświęcim, Poland (see website for more details)
Open daily except January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday. Opening hours, as listed from the official website, are:
8:00 AM – 3:00 PM December – February
8:00 AM – 4:00 PM March and November
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM April and October
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM May and September
8:00 AM – 7:00 PM June, July, and August
Entry is free – if you want to visit with a tour guide, then there is a fee for the guided visit
Would you ever visit a concentration camp?