Yesterday I visited Auschwitz and Auschwitz2 (Birkenau) and I had all these thoughts running through my head, feelings of guilt and shame (I am German-born after all), sadness and utter horror as well as amazement at modern-day people and their attitude towards the mass murder of a million people+
I booked a transport and entry ticket package online but there seem to be a variety of options one can choose, including the “jump the queue” which would have been nice. We left Krakow at 5.30am to get to Auschwitz by 7am and even at that early hour the line to the still closed ticket booth was substantial. It had started to drizzle and we all were glad they had some marquees set up to protect the waiting people at least a little bit – though later in the day the line was so long that they had to stand in the rain…
There are busloads and busloads of people arriving, some in their own car or campervan, others in small buses such as ours and others again in those big 45seater ones. It is the school holidays in Poland and some European countries so the influx of visitors is immense.
Piece of information for any future visitors: You will need a Photo ID and your bag can only be 30cm x 20cm and they do a proper airport-style security check of you and your belongings.
I wished I had more time though. Due to a large number of groups, it is very hard as an individual visitor to really see all the exhibitions in detail, also because our bus trip had a strict time limit.
If Auschwitz1 was horrifying I got the shivers at Auschwitz2/Birkenau. The sheer size of the complex, or what’s left of it, makes this a site I had not envisaged (though I knew it existed). This was killing on an industrial scale! How anybody in their right mind could think up such a horrific thing is beyond me.
Birkenau is largely in ruins, the wooden barracks are all but destroyed – though they have reconstructed some to show what they looked like. The Gas chambers and Crematorium were blown up by the Nazis when they left but there are pictures and descriptions of what they looked like and how “efficient” they worked.
If it was not for the purpose of killing people the similarities to a Roman Fort 2000 years ago are striking. Perhaps that is where the Nazi’s got the idea from. Rows upon rows of barracks and ablution blocks as well as kitchen and shower blocks in separate areas – surrounded by ditches and barb wire fencing as well as watchtowers every few meters.
Apart from the historic horrors I was most appalled at two guys who were clearly there for the purpose of live streaming, or vblogging their walk and literally videoed themselves walking around the whole complex with no regard to how many lives were lost there. For once I did not feel a “selfie” was appropriate in a place where so many people lost their life! But maybe that is just me as many more had no such qualms – even posing in front of the crematorium ovens…
I could write more but I let the photos speak for themselves… One last thing though. Go and visit yourself. This is different from any other concentration camp you might have been to already – its sole purpose was killing as many as they could.