I had a rude awakening when I arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The moment I stepped off the bus, I start thinking about all the times I have complained about being tired, hungry, upset or complained about anything, really. Nothing had prepared me for what the day would unfold as I made my way through both camps.
If you did not know, these camps have been made in to Museums and on the tour many things stood out. One of the facts resonated with me was the amount of visitors that frequented the museums, about 1,200,000 per year, that breaks down to 3287 people per day. That is a ton of people who come to visit and pay their respects. I think what brought the tragedy into perspective was another statistic on how many people had been killed there. While there are speculations and arguments over this number I will go off of what I was told on this tour, which is approximately 12,000,000-17,000,000 people total where murdered in the span of 5 years, this breaks down to about 6575-9315 per day. To be able to see the amount of people that where walking through these camps that day and realizing that double that amount of people where murdered every day was shocking, horrific and made the whole experience indubitable.
I cannot write about the wrong that has been done, nor the horror that occurred in these walls, because no amount of words can undo what has been done, and right the wrongs of the acts committed. All I can do is reflect on what I felt while walking through the camps to show respect and gratitude for the life I live.
I felt small and insignificant when I stood by the train that brought the Jewish people to the camps. I was haunted by the thoughts of the people who stood there before me.
I felt sad knowing they where taken from their homes, stripped of everything only to have their dignities lost and family members killed in front of them.
I felt horror while learning about all the victims who where subject to absolute filth, punishment and degradation.
I felt thankful for my occupation, knowing the hard working conditions these people were forced to do, a level of extreme that I could never go experience.
I felt pain walking through the barracks, imagining how all these people lived; sleeping on top of one another, cleaning up fecal matters, bathing themselves once a year- the list goes on, it’s awful.
I felt shock when I saw a room full of hair, which represented only 25% of the hair cut from the prisoners to make clothes or household items for profit, profit they would never see.
I fell silent when I walked through gas chambers.
I felt ill as our tour guide discussed the methods of violence used throughout the camps.
I felt guilty for the life I had.
Most importantly, I felt connected to people I have never met.
It was then that I realized this is somewhere you needed to visit. It was the most historical site I have been to yet and not because of its age, but because of the events that took place. There will never be a place that will make you question human kind and your place within it like this did. If you have not gone it really is somewhere to add to your list because you as a human being have too. If you have gone then you know. what this place does.