Today was a day filled with emotions. Today was the day we visited Auschwitz.
We left Krakow very early this morning and drove about two hours to the concentration camp. I was actually very excited to go to Auschwitz on our trip because I thoroughly enjoy learning and reading about the Holocaust. It is a topic I find very interesting. However, Auschwitz was much more impressionable than I had ever thought it would be.
I was totally fine when we were first walking around the grounds and looking at the barracks and going inside them. In one building, there were collections of items left behind in Auschwitz after it was liberated.
One area had all of the shoes collected from all of the Auschwitz victims that spanned an entire wall and was an extremely deep and wide pile. There were also ginormous collections of eyeglasses, combs, and pots.
The most disturbing (you couldn’t even take pictures in this specific room) was all of the hair of all the victims that was shaved off their heads before they were killed, to be used for making fabric. The amount of hair was very eerie and unsettling. Even so, I hadn’t really felt the whole impact of the situation.
Throughout the time we were in Auschwitz, I felt three emotions very strongly; the first was a disturbed panic, the other was sadness, and the last was just plain creeped out.
The only time I felt deeply saddened was when we saw the “death wall” that men, women, and children were sent to be shot. Our tour guide gave us each a rose to place wherever we felt necessary during our tour and that’s where I chose to put mine.
I felt really creeped out when we walked by the structure where victims were hung in public as a threat to all of the other Jews. Then came the times when I felt very disturbed.
The first was when we went down into a cellar sort of thing in one of the barracks that held prisoners that had cells in it. It was very enclosed and I guess I just felt trapped, but I didn’t like it and it made me very claustrophobic. There was one cell in there that was about 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet called the “standing cell” where really bad prisoners were forced to stand with three other people for days or weeks at a time.
Then came time to see the gas chamber and crematorium. I almost had a full-blown panic attack when I entered the gas chamber. I was the first one out of the room. Unfortunately, the room I ran into to try and get out was the crematorium. I could just picture the corpses being thrown into the ovens so that freaked me out even more and I ran outside. That entire situation was too much for me to handle and it made me very scared and shaky.
Something I hadn’t known before was that Auschwitz is actually three different camps each separated by a few miles. So, after visiting the original Auschwitz, we went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the three camps.
All that had survived there were the chimneys from each of the barracks and the original railroad tracks that dropped victims off, but they did have recreations of a few barracks so we could get an idea of their living conditions.
It’s crazy to think they made 5 people at the least sleep together on one small bed. There were bunk beds with three levels and sometimes there would be up to 40 people altogether on just ne set of bunks.
While at that camp, we could climb one of the towers over looking the camp to get an idea of how vast it was. There were chimneys for as far as I could see and our tour guide explained to us that the line of trees where the chimneys stopped is what they used to hide the gas chambers and crematoria behind.
I wasn’t very affected by that camp because there wasn’t as much to see, but I was shocked at how immense it was.
I was kind of disappointed because I was really set on getting a spoon from Auschwitz since that was one of the things I was most looking forward too.
They didn’t have as much of a gift shop. It was more of a book store with hundreds of Holocaust books that all seemed really interesting. It was hard to not buy them all!