Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Visiting Auschwitz

On Monday July 22nd 2013, my sister and I went to visit the Auschwitz concentration camps.


I had booked us on the Auschwitz & Birkenau Tour with the company called Escape2Poland, as it had received good reviews on Tripadvisor.

They picked us up in a van at our hostel at 8.30 in the morning, before driving the 50 kilometers to the Auschwitz camps, located in the town called Oswiecim.

"Arbeit macht frei"
- "Labor makes (you) free",
or "work sets you free"


Our tour group consisted of approximately 20 people. In the beginning of the tour they handed out a headset and a receiver to everyone, that was connected to the guide's microphone.


In this way you'd be able to hear the guide's voice loud and clear without having to be up in her face all the time.

You could be walking ten meters behind in your own world, and still be listening to the guide explaining, telling stories and giving directions.

Pretty neat.

 Our guide,
who'd been working giving tours around the 
Auschwitz camps for the past 15 years,
explaining about the Zyklon B containers 
used to gas people to death
 One of the gas chambers

Mountains of personal belongings like shoes, hairbrushes and glasses,
and leather suitcases,
neatly marked with names and addresses of the owners
"Be sure to label your luggage with your name and address,
so that you'll be able to find it easily upon arrival".

So much deception,
to prevent resistance


 Execution wall

Inside the prison building to the left,
we were taken deep down into the basement
to see the standing cells:
small claustrophobic cells, where
the prisoner had to enter by crawling through
a small opening.
The cell was constructed as to prevent the prisoner 
from doing anything but standing 
No room for squatting, or sitting, or laying down

And there could be as many as four people
in one cell,
for several days,
people often suffocating to death.

The torture. 
 Pretty comical,
dressing like your
going to a party
- when in Auschwitz

Oh, well.

 After a couple of hours in Auschwitz I
A quick snack before
driving the 3 km to Auschwitz II: Birkenau

The serenity,
blue skies, vast fields, and lush crops and grass
- so surreal to think about all of the awful atrocities
that went on in this area

 At the end of the of railway tracks
inside Birkenau
- where the newly arrived
would be evaluated upon arrival,
and separated into two group:
those who were fit for work, and those who were unfit:
the sick, the elderly, pregnant women and children, who
would be brought to the gas chambers
straight away

 (Klikk på bildet hvis du vil lese hva det står)

 The weather was hot,
and the ground looked just like my dry legs
- but who has the right to complain about anything, 
when in Auschwitz?

 People in the camps were only allowed to
use the latrines twice a day: before and after work

Our guide told us about how the job of those who emptied
the toilets actually had the most 'lucrative' jobs: they
could use the toilets whenever they wanted,
working inside meant shelter from rain, snow and wind
- and the SS officers didn't actually want
to hang out here, so they weren't bothered by them

If you ever have the opportunity, you should definitely make the trip to visit the Auschwitz camps.

I almost felt like it was my duty as a world citizen - especially when Norway is only a couple of hours away by plane.

Reading and watching documents about the Holocaust is one thing, but to be walking the grounds and touching the walls of the Auschwitz camps is truly an unique experience.

It was gut-wrenching and heart-aching. At the end of the day, my sister said she felt like she had been to a funeral - pretty emotionally drained.

 I hope to go there again some day.

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