Yesterday we visited Auschwitz-Birkenau for probably the most emotional guided tours of our lives.
I prepared myself by reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. I am not a big reader at all...in fact I can’t remember when I finished a book from cover to cover. I couldn’t put this book down, and I have read it whilst in Krakow.
We started the tour at Auschwitz passing through the infamous gates which read Arbeit Macht Frei, meaning work makes you free. This clearly was propaganda as very few people left here alive.
We were guided around the museum and informed of the scale of the atrocities. It hit home in one room where there was a display of hair cut from 40,000 murdered people. It weighed several tons! In other displays were the personal items confiscated from those who were sent there.
In Block 11 we were told how people were tortured to make them give names of people in the resistance. Hardly any came out of this building. Many were shot against the wall in the courtyard next door. (As seen in the picture below)
Rudolph Hoss who was the longest serving commander at Auschwitz was finally tried after the war and hung in the grounds in the concentration camp.
The second part of the visit was to Birkenau which was Auschwitz 2. This was much larger and was very much a place of human slaughter with two massive gas chambers which could kill 2000 people at a time. The innocent victims were transported like cattle in trains directly into Birkenau.
At the siding the people were separated into those healthy enough to work and those who were taken straight to their death in the gas chamber. The gas chamber was disguised as showers to keep the victims calm. The two main gas chambers were destroyed by the SS. The ruins can still be seen today.
Yesterday was cold but sunny. It almost felt wrong for the day to be bright. In fact survivors who go back say it looks like a park because of the green grass. There wasn’t any, just mud. Grass wouldn’t survive under the feet of 90,000 people who lived there at any one time. The shot below was more indicative of the conditions.
There were up to 700 people kept like animals in the barracks.
It was a moving afternoon and one I think everyone should experience.This massacre of over a million innocent people should not be forgotten. Humanity should have learnt its lesson.
Poem of the day
On Tuesday night when we were planning the trip we didn’t know whether we would be able to get food. Lesley uttered the words “do you think there will be a tea shop at Auschwitz?” After a few beers this seemed like a great starting line for my poem and the title of the blog was going to be the same.
Having been today it feels too flippant and hence I have concentrated on the important stuff. But just for completeness here was my poem:
Is there a tea room at Auschwitz?
This didn’t sit right with me
On planning our trip to see
This disgusting human atrocity
Where incarcerated tried to flee
When my Mrs said to me
This comment surely was the pits
Made me simply want to flee
Asking is there a tea room at Auschwitz?
PS If you are wondering...yes there is: