A reflective trip through Auschwitz-Birkenau
The sun shone brightly in the mid afternoon and it’s heat warmed my skin while the birds chirped softly in the otherwise silent moment of reflection. A moment so surreal, I’ve never experienced anything like it. Not a single word was spoken as our tour group stood in that open space surrounded by dilapidated wooden constructs and wild grass patches reading the memorial plaques that commiserate that shameful period in mans history.
The sunlight reflected on the plaque and illuminated the lettering as if trying to impress its meaning ever more forcefully on its readers.
“For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children mainly jews from various countries in Europe.
The tour left from central Krakow and made the trek between the concentration camps of Auschwitz – Birkenau. It took us through the museum, hearing the stories of individual victims and walking through the gateway that so many once entered and so few ever departed through. One might think that the effect would lessen, the horror would becomes less distressing as desensitisation kicks in. But with each story, the terror is renewed. The disbelief in the actions and capabilities of man increase and the shame grows bolder.
Walking through the museum, images cover the walls and glass protected exhibits provide a disturbing window to the past.
Displays showing piles of suitcases, mixing bowls, utensils and other household items reveal the lies that were told to many jews of their impending migration to a new living arrangement. The display of thousands upon thousands of wiry eyeglasses piled together, each once having a single owner, becomes a distressing visual illustration of the numbers of lives lost. Numbers can become meaningless except in these circumstance where the numbers abound so large and the remains are so great that it is impossible not to feel the weight of their presence.
The numbers of the murdered, the disturbing experiments conducted, the regular torture -each story as distressing to view and bring to life as the last.
And after those confronting moments have already occurred, after the tour of this place is coming to its end and we find ourselves staring down at the memorial marking the place where approximately 1.5 million were killed so callously, with the sun shining and the birds chirping, that haunting message has never been so meaningful and so important.
While years pass and the victims and their families grow older, while times change, while memories fade, while the sun continues to shine and the birds have forgotten what this place really means and the horrors that occurred here, we truly must never forget.